LOS ANGELES - Shaquille O'Neal's size 22 shoe sits on a mantel in my TV room. It's a ceramic mold of the shoe of the NBA great and was a trophy given out at an event for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids.
Shaq was an ambassador for the nonprofit during his days with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was that connection that led to my exclusive interview with Shaq in the team's title-winning 1999-2000 NBA season. I was a volunteer too and often an emcee for the organization founded by Elise Kim and NFL icon Howie Long.
As I mark 30 years of reporting at Fox 11, I look back fondly on the day I spent with Shaq. It was during the first season of the Lakers' "three-peat" NBA championship run that O'Neal led with Kobe Bryant. It was also the same year he'd given $1 million to the Boys and Girls Club.
At 5-foot-9, I was dwarfed by Shaq's 7-foot-1 frame. We went from the Lakers practice to a community event, to his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
A young Shaquille O'neal had bounced into La-La Land in 1996. At 28 years old, Shaq was single and mum on his love life. He talked about his childhood, his inspiration and predicted his future after basketball. Underneath Shaq's massive shoes were painted toenails. He showed them off while lounging on a couch in the green room before he spoke with Leno.
Athletes and Entertainers for Kids is the umbrella organization for 911 for Kids. You can click here for more information on 911 for Kids.