by Jennifer Bowen, Katie Dragga, Emily Garvey, Lauren Hennen, Christina Ipavec, Brittany Moffat, Kim Schneider, Colleen Smitek, Beth Stallings, Carly Toyzan, Erick Trickey & Jim Vickers; edited by Colleen Smitek
Shaquille O'Neal Basketball Player | 37
There were rumors. Rumors that had fans salivating. Could the Cavs really make a move for Superman? In June the rumors became reality: Shaq would soon be wearing wine and gold. Fondly dubbed Witness Protection by fans, the 7-foot-1 center took his place alongside LeBron James in the quest to bring Cleveland its first championship in 45 years. The 15-time NBA All-Star makes headlines off the court, too, performing random acts of kindness from delivering gifts as Shaq-A-Claus to paying for the funeral of a 5-year-old who was murdered in North Carolina to hiding autographed copies of his recent Sports Illustrated cover around town for fans to find. On and off the court, the big man is making a huge impression on Cleveland.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane … Shaq didn’t know Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were from Cleveland until we told him. “That means I’m destined to play here.”
His Kryptonite … “It doesn’t exist.”
Why the Cavs will win a championship this season … “One through 12 we have the best players on paper.”
His biggest competition … “Any team that implements the Hack-A-Shaq.”
Not so free … As of Dec. 10, Shaq’s career average for free throws made was 52.7 percent.
Arrested development … Although Shaq has been a deputy sheriff in other cities he’s played in, the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy recently ruled he would need to complete more than 300 hours of training to become deputized here.
Yes, he’d like fries with that … His biggest guilty pleasure? “A McDonald’s No. 1 with an extra double cheeseburger and a diet Coke.”
Celebrity he’d like to meet … “I’ve met them all. The one guy I wanted to meet that I didn’t get to was Redd Foxx.”
Cavalier cut-ups … We’ve seen Shaq’s funny side from his SportsCenter commercials (Shaqtus, anyone?), but he says he’s not the funniest guy in the NBA. So who does that title go to? “LeBron freakin’ James. He’s hilarious.”
Why he thinks he’s interesting … “I’m humoristically enigmatic.”
Average NBA player shoe size … 14
Big shoes to fill … At the photo shoot for our cover, Shaq wore custom-made black Superman slippers — in size 23.
Wardrobe change … The cold mornings have kept Shaq from some of his go-to gear. “I can’t wear shorts all year-round. I could, but I’d be freezing.”