Shaquille O’Neal paid for a stranger’s engagement ring at Zales this week.
This isn’t a belated April Fool’s joke. It’s just the latest example of O’Neal’s random acts of kindness, well-documented over the years, including his time in Orlando (more on that in a bit).
His most recent “got your back” moment happened at a Zales mall store in Atlanta. O’Neal — who has a line of jewelry at Zales — overheard a young man looking at some engagement rings and inquiring about a layaway plan.
“I seen the guy come in, and he was just so shy,” O’Neal said on the NBA on TNT Tuesday night. “He was saying, ‘How much do I owe to pay off this ring?’”
O’Neal stepped into the conversation and offered to pick up the tab. He didn’t disclose how much it was.
“This is something I do every day,” O’Neal said. “The other day my wife and I were furniture shopping. And this lady she had this autistic daughter. She was looking to pay for some furniture. I just took care of it.”
O’Neal has a history of random kindness. In 2020, O’Neal reached out to the family of Louisville football signee Dexter Rentz, after Rentz died in a shooting in Orlando.
O’Neal wound up paying for all funeral expenses, including a horse and carriage and custom-made casket.
I’ve seen his kindness up close and personal. As a sportswriter and columnist for the “Orlando Sentinel” during O’Neal’s days in Central Florida, I got to know him well.
It’s not an act. It’s who he is. After lunch at a diner one day, he tipped a waitress $100.
In 1996, during a playoff run against the Chicago Bulls, Shaquille O’Neal handed me 13 tickets hours before tipoff and asked me to find someone who may want them.
In scramble mode, I walked outside the United Center and gave them to children at a playground outside the arena. Yet another documented assist in the Big Fella’s legacy.
Shaquille O’Neal gave away turkeys at Thanksgiving (“Shaqsgiving”). He gave away toys at Christmas (“Shaq-A-Claus”). He gave away his plus-sized clothes to big kids in need.
“I’m into making people happy,” he said on TNT.
No doubt. As a seven-footer, O’Neal remains larger than life. But he is never too big to hang with the rest of us…and help whenever he can.
Good on you, Big Fella.
George Diaz has worked as major newspaper dailies across the country, such as “The Miami Herald,” “The Cincinnati Post,” and the “Orlando Sentinel,” where he spent nearly 30 years in a variety of roles, including columnist and a member of the editorial board. He is now a frequent contributor to Growing Bolder.