Shaquille O’Neal took advantage of a break in the Cavaliers’ schedule Sunday to cram two holidays into one day, flitting from a “Shaq-A-Claus” appearance in the morning to handing out “Shaqs-giving” dinners in the afternoon.
Widely known for his charity work, the Cavs center did his best to take two rituals that he has carved out in his previous cities and transplant them to Cleveland.
“No, I’m not tired. For me, it’s just another day at the office,” he said, still smiling after handing out boxes with Thanksgiving fixings at the Cleveland Boys &amp;amp; Girls Club headquarters and posing for pictures with about 400 families.
His day began at 10:30 a.m. when he strode into the Mayfield Heights Toys “R” Us store wearing jeans, a sweater and a Santa hat, and handed $1,000 in cash to a cashier as a donation for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
O’Neal is the official spokesman for this year’s Toys for Tots drive, and has partnered with Toys “R” Us to encourage consumers to donate cash or toys.
Strolling through the store aisles as reporters and camera people hustled to keep up, he filled up shopping carts with karaoke machines, board games and — his favorite — huge remote-control cars.
It’s something he’s been doing since he was a rookie in Orlando, going to Toys “R” Us to buy Christmas toys for kids in need, O’Neal explained.
With ease, he scooped up items from the uppermost shelves that most mortals can’t reach on tiptoe, leaving Toys “R” Us executives to marvel that he’d be a handy employee. The toys — which cost O’Neal thousands of dollars — were loaded onto a truck by Marines and will be distributed by the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.
A small crowd in the store knew in advance that O’Neal would be there, but many shoppers like Tina Smith of Lyndhurst were caught unaware.
Smith said she only happened to be in the toy store because Bed, Bath &amp;amp; Beyond was closed, and laughed while trying to catch the 7-foot-1 superstar and snap his picture for her sons, 24 and 25. “They would have killed to have been here,” she said.
Then, in the time it took to drive in his gleaming black pickup from Mayfield Heights to Cleveland’s Broadway neighborhood, he took off his Santa hat and transformed into the host of “Shaqs-giving.”
Pulling into the Broadway Boys &amp;amp; Girls Club lot, he parked next to a huge truck from Feed The Children, which he had paid $7,200 to distribute boxes of food and toiletries.
Entering the building, he had a friendly smile and greeting for every waiting family.