Shaquille O'Neal(notes) hasn't exactly been a shrinking violet since joining the Boston Celtics as a free agent this summer. In fact, it's fair to say that he's been making the scene even more than usual, taking advantage of the Boston market (such good mashed potatoes) and the free time afforded by his reduced role (such good 10 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes per game) to really dig into the Hub.
So far, he's publicly declared himself a "camouflage geek" who might take on Harvard and MIT, posed for an hour as a statue in Cambridge's Harvard Square, expressed a strong desire to dress in drag and ride the T (Boston's train system), given said drag-queen-alter-ego "Shaquita" a Halloween test drive and, most recently, "sung" the theme song to "Cheers" with patrons at the Boston tourist landmark. That's an awful lot of outsized personality displays within the space of just a few months, even for the Big Come-On-Please-Look-At-Me-You-Guys.
But while some might arch an eyebrow at such "random acts of Shaq-ness," it's pretty easy to applaud attempts at community engagement like O'Neal's trip this Sunday to a Toys 'R' Us store in Framingham, Mass., to buy Christmas presents for kids in need as part of a charitable partnership with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
Video from Shaq's shopping spree, plus a shocking (NOTE: completely not shocking and very much in keeping with the first two paragraphs of this post) announcement, after the jump.
From Jessica Camerato at CSNNE.com:
O'Neal donned a red Santa Claus hat and shopped around with members of the Marines. He also stopped to talk to fans along the way. Once he made his purchase, he helped load the toys into a military vehicle in the parking lot.
O'Neal hopes other public figures will also get involved in similar activities and provide toys for deserving children.
"My goal is get one big-time person in each state," he said. "Like me, I'm doing this here, New Jersey, Florida, and California. So there goes four states right there. So I just say we get Paul [Pierce] to take care of [California] and Kevin [Garnett] take care of Minnesota. My goal is to one day just have a guy take care of their own state and their own city."
O'Neal, who said his relationship with Toys for Tots dates to 1995, also told NESN that he plans to extend his yuletide cheer to that grandest of holiday traditions — taking a photo of your kids with Saint Nick. The Boston Globe's Celtics Blog recaps:
[O'Neal] said he's planning an appearance similar to his Harvard Square "Shaqtue" stunt last month, when he posed silently and expressionless and allowed fans to take photos with him.
"I"m honored to do stuff like the Shaq statue and stuff like that. Oh, coming soon, in a mall nearby, bring your kids to take a picture with Shaq-a-Claus," Shaq told reporter Uri Berenguer.
Five bucks says we're going to see a hilarious new batch of Shaq-themed photos on Sketchy Santas this holiday season. I, for one, can't wait. Actually, I bet Shaq turns out to be a real pro as a mall Santa; he does have some experience in that department, after all.
Video clip courtesy of NECN.