HBO’s “Real Sports” profiled Shaquille O’Neal for its latest episode, focusing specifically on how the Hall of Famer and TNT analyst has built his post-career brand and endorsement business to the point that he now makes more money each year as a retiree than he ever did during his wildly successful playing career. (On that score, it’s sort of an update on a big story that Scott Cacciola did for the New York Times about 3 1/2 years ago.)
As part of the discussion of the Big Diesel’s move into big business and big checks, O’Neal regaled correspondent Bernard Goldberg with a big tale: the story of how he claims to have made the single largest purchase in the history of Walmart.
“I spent about $70,000 in Walmart,” O’Neal says. “One night. I spent so much, American Express thought my credit card was stolen.”
What circumstances lead you to drop $70,000 in a big box store, and what do you need to buy to hit that number? According to Shaq: a cross-country move, and everything.
“True story,” Shaq says, which is good, because otherwise we might have some questions! “I get traded from Miami and I go to Phoenix [in February of 2008]. And I’m very impatient, so they’ve already got the apartment set up, but I ain’t got nothin’. I ain’t got no towels. I ain’t got no pots and pans. I ain’t got no TVs. […] I’m Walmart’s biggest customer, and they know it.”
And so, according to the man who would later thrill America with his spots for Gold Bond Medicated Powder and The General Car Insurance, he got his
Blue Light Special* spending-spree on, copping everything from socks to computers.
* NOTE: I forgot that Blue Light Special was a Kmart thing and not a Walmart thing. Whoops! Sorry about that.
“I get to the cash register and click it, and it says ‘declined,’ ” O’Neal recalled. “And I said, ‘Declined?’ Wipe [the card] off. ‘Declined.’ Security team from American Express called me and said, ‘Hey, man. Somebody stole your credit card. They’re at Walmart.’ I said, ‘No, sir. That’s me.’ The guy goes, ‘What the [expletive] are you buying at Walmart?’ ”
After answering that exceedingly reasonable question, O’Neal was able to proceed with buying enough stuff to load two trucks and furnish an apartment … in which he’d spend about 14 months before packing up and heading to Cleveland for the next stop on his NBA journey. He made that trip, and his next one to Boston, during free agency in the summer — smart moves, if you’re looking to save a little bit of money. Sure, it’s nice to treat yourself by splurging on the really soft towels, but those emergency five-figure trips can really add up.
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