Skip to main content

Over the years, the public has come to know various versions of Shaquille O’Neal. Some will remember him as a shockingly athletic young center with the LSU Tigers. Others will remember his dominance with the LA Lakers or recall watching him see out his career while bouncing around the NBA. Alternatively, you could focus on his media presence, playing a key role in TNT’s basketball coverage and appearing in countless commercials. No matter the era, though, Shaq seems like a pretty good guy. Tyronn Lue can personally confirm that.

In the late 1990s, Lue entered the NBA and found himself with the Lakers. Upon arriving in Hollywood, he was greeted by the Lakers’ larger-than-life center, a dinner invitation, and a large sum of cash.

Let’s take the time machine back to 1998 and check it out.

When Ty Lue joined the Lakers during the NBA lockout, Shaquille O’Neal stepped up

As just about everyone has experienced, being the new member of a group can be quite the challenge. That was especially true for Tyronn Lue when he joined the Lakers after the 1998 NBA draft. The team wasn’t quite dominating the Association just yet, but with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on the team, it would have been easy to be intimidated.

Shaq, however, had the opposite effect. While the big man could be a terrifying presence on the court, he immediately made the young guard feel welcome in Hollywood.

“So, Eddie Jones, like, took me under his wing,” Lue explained on The Pivot podcast. “Kinda showed me the ropes and taught me everything. And so, the first week I got in town, he took me to the Century Club, and I went to the Century Club, and I met Shaq. Like the first night.”

Despite being a big deal by that point, the Diesel put his ego aside to be a good teammate.

Shaq was like, “Man, glad to have you. Come to the house tomorrow, have a big meal, whatever, whatever.” And so we go over to Shaq’s house the next day. He gives me, I think, twenty-thousand dollars cash. Like, “I know you ain’t got no money. I know it’s the lockout. You know, take care of yourself.” Fed us well, and that kind of helped me out because I would have been in awe. I don’t know what I would have expected if I just walked into practice and seen Shaq and Kobe, you know? And so, Shaq just made me feel welcome right away.

Tyronn Lue

And, in case you’re thinking that the center had just signed the rookie up for a sizable debt, that wasn’t the case. Lue insisted that Shaq never wanted the money back.

Shaq’s generosity wasn’t a one-off, either

When taken in isolation, it’s easy to think that, faced with unusual circumstances, Shaquille O’Neal felt like he had to step up and help a teammate out. His generosity, however, wasn’t limited to the lockout.

Take, for example, Mark Madsen. As the story goes, Shaq assumed the responsibility of helping the California native adjust to life with the Lakers. O’Neal provided the downpayment for the rookie to buy a new car, hooked him up with a new wardrobe, and even got him a Rolex.

“Shaq is one of the most generous people out there,” Madsen told Trent Toone of the Deseret News in 2018. “He’s a great, generous person.”

The NBA legend doesn’t even limit himself to teammates. Over the years, we’ve heard stories about him paying for funerals, leaving massive tips, and even buying a stranger an engagement ring.

On the court, Shaquille O’Neal was a mountain of a man who had no problem stepping up in big spots. Away from the court, he still manages to make a larger-than-life impact, just in a different way.


Shaquille O’Neal ‘Analyzed’ Michael Jordan, Then Beat Him to the Punch in Hollywood