"Laugh all you want" Shaquille O'Neal posted on Facebook today in regards to his sneaker line which has always been at the end of a joke in the sneaker community. But the next statement is one none of us can really laugh at
"The Shaq brand has sold over 120 million pairs of affordable shoes for kids at Wal-mart."
At the time, Big men in the NBA had been shunned by the NBA and advertisers because the average consumer couldn't relate to them, but SHAQ changed that. By the time he was 23 years old he was earning over 17 million dollars in endorsements deals between Reebok and Pepsi Co, he was also starring in movies, putting out rap albums, and was one of the most marketable athletes in the league.
SHAQ broke that mold again when he parted ways with Reebok after launching one of his best selling basketball sneakers ever. He attributes launching his own sneaker brand to a confrontation with a lady after one of his practices. "Why don't one of you son of a bitches make an affordable sneaker?" she shouted as she approached him. Shaq replied putting the blame elsewhere: "I don't set the prices, That's Reebok's job." and tried to buy her off with $200. "I don't want your damn money", she angry replied.
Shortly after the confrontation Shaq went on to launch shoes under two brands he owns, SHAQ and Dunkman. He partnered with several companies and has sold his sneakers in discount stores like Payless, Wal-mart, and K-mart for under $40. 20 years later, he has now sold over 120 million pairs of sneakers to kids who can't afford a $190 Air Jordan or $200 LeBron.
SHAQ not only recognized the demand and void in the marketplace, he took advantage of something no other brand was willing to do. SHAQ saw an opportunity to make money selling sneakers in stores where parents could afford them, which still carried a brand name that was strong enough for kids to resonate with. Although a countless number of times he has copied or stolen certain design traits from more premium brands, we'll have to cut him some slack since it was for the greater good. I mean hate on SHAQ's sneakers all you want, but you have to respect him.