NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal is guest speaker at Vikings Gala

JACKSON, Tenn. — “What you want to be when you grow up,” asked Shaquille O’Neal. “NBA player,” said Brandon.

Basketball fans from across West Tennessee gathered at the Oman Arena to get a glimpse of one NBA all-star giant.

“Ryan Abernathy, LSU coach, called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m working in a county in Tennessee, a district in Tennessee; very poor district. I need you to help me out with a fundraiser,'” O’Neal said.

O’Neal was the guest speaker at the Vikings Gala Saturday night, an event raising money to improve aspects of the athletic programs in Humboldt schools. He stressed the importance of education in being successful.

“I told my mother, ‘Mom, I want to go pro.’ She said, ‘Fine. Come to the store with me.’ We went to the store. She said, ‘Balance this check book.’ Couldn’t balance a checkbook, so then I knew then that I wasn’t ready to become a professional,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal says, with the right support and encouragement, any student athlete can be a star.

“You know, I always tell kids, ‘Look at me and look at yourself. If you look at me, and say, oh, Shaq made it, you definitely can make it,'” O’Neal said, “because I wasn’t the best athlete. I wasn’t the best dressed. I wasn’t the smartest kid, but one thing I always had was a belief that I could make it to the next level.”

Some of the aspects Humboldt city school are looking to improve include up to date athletic facilities and programming as well as uniforms and supplies to operate a quality team sports program.

If you’d like to learn more about how to donate, you can contact Humboldt city schools at 731-784-2652.

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