At 7-feet tall and wearing a very long black sweater, Shaquille O'Neal doesn't quite fit the traditional image of Santa Claus. But the man who's taller than many Christmas trees played the part perfectly for an entire Atlanta elementary school last week.
O'Neal and his "Shaq-a-Claus" program partnered with Toys "R" Us' Toys For Tots campaign and provided hundreds of gifts for students at Humphries Elementary School -- and also led them in an arm-swaying, wall-shaking rendition of "Jingle Bells".
The Big Santa has been brightening the holidays for underprivileged children every year since 1992, when he began "Shaq-a Claus" after a conversation with his mom.
"She was at a Boys and Girls Club one day and she talked to about 500 kids and all 500 stated that they were not getting a present," he told HLN.
"So I said, 'Tell you what: Make them write down five things they want and get it to me.' So that night I went to Toys R Us. Me and my boys, we rented about four U-Haul trucks and just loaded up and the next day we delivered them."
As a child, O'Neal says he "never really got a lot for Christmas" (though an autographed Dr. J basketball from his dad still stands out) so he understands how special it can be for these students to have some boxes under the tree. At Humphries Elementary, 98% of the students are eligiblefor subsidized lunches.
"We can just make children smile and keep them happy, I’m all about that," Shaq says.
O'Neal described his own children's Christmas wish list this year as "crazy," but says when new toys come in, the rule is that old toys have to go out. "I always tell them before I buy something new, 'You better take some old toys and put 'em in a box.' And we'll drive down to Salvation Army or a homeless shelter and give them away."
So with all the giving, does Shaq expect to do any receiving this year? And what do you get the man who presumably has everything (and earned $292 million in salary alone in his NBA career) anyway?
"I can always get me a remote control car or a remote control airplane, so like, if I get one or two of them, I’m the happiest old man on Earth."