WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – NBA Superstar Shaquille O’Neal slam dunked his way into Wichita this weekend to promote a great cause. The Hoops for Literacy basketball game is a fundraiser to raise money to provide literary resources to underprivileged Kansas youth.
Part of the fundraiser was a meet and greet with the former center. Only 100 fans were lucky enough to grab tickets, and some looked forward to what they call this “life-changing experience” for months.
“I’ll be in shock right now, and I’d be really happy,” Shaquille O’Neal fan Pierce Crawford said.
Bryan Delgado Cruz was happy too. He’s a lifelong and die-hard laker fan. He was excited for the full circle moment–meeting the 7-foot-1 basketball great turned DJ.
“I lived my whole life in Los Angeles. I never got to meet him,” Bryan Delgado Cruz said. “I grew up watching him play with Kobe when they did that three-peat. We got stationed out here and now we’re gonna get to meet him.”
Marlin Tisdale is checking off a bucket list item, too.
“Shaq was like the first big basketball player I ever was really accustomed to because I was always a big guy,” Tisdale said. “Shaq was one of the bigger centers, and so for me, to be able to see him live and see him play it meant so much to me and motivated me to want to actually play more.”
Pierce Crawford is only 8 years old, and he’s been a big fan for half his life. After watching a lot of YouTube videos, Shaq is now one of his favorite players.
“I like the way he plays and stuff,” Crawford said. “He played a lot of good games.”
Everyone had their own personal connection to the basketball superstar–even if they couldn’t meet him.
“Kobe Bryant was a big inspiration in my career as a basketball player,” Shaq fan Sienna Carter said. “I love Shaq, and I love Kobe and what they did together. After everything that’s happened, it’s just great seeing him.”
Shaq’s longtime friend and former teammate Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.