SHAQ: Rise Of The Doughnut King

Fans of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts gather in New York’s Times Square, Thursday July 13, 2017, to receive free doughnuts from franchisee Shaquille O’Neal at an event celebrating the 80th birthday of Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnut. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts/AP Images)

As Krispy Kreme celebrates the 80th birthday of its iconic Original Glazed doughnut on Friday, its most famous franchisee, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, made his rounds to promote the event, including stops at Good Morning America and Times Square where he handed out free doughnuts to fans gathering nearby.

O’Neal, a longtime Krispy Kreme enthusiast since his early playing days with the Orlando Magic, became a franchisee and the brand’s global spokesman in October of last year when he took over the famous Atlanta location. Despite the chaos of New York City, O’Neal managed to reflect on his experience as a Krispy Kreme owner.

“It’s excellent. The store is at a great location in Atlanta. It’s a historic location. People show us a lot of support,” O’Neal said. “I’m looking to get more franchises of Krispy Kreme. When it’s all said and done, I’d like to own 100 Krispy Kreme stores. That’s my dream”

It’s no surprise that the Big Diesel is super ambitious. He dominated basketball, he rapped, he’s been in movies, he had a video game, and now he he aims to be the doughnut king. As such, he’s encouraging others to celebrate on Friday by enjoying a dozen Original Glazed doughnuts for just 80 cents with the purchase of any dozen at regular menu price.

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What is rather shocking is the doughnut culture in sports. On Monday, during MLB’s Home Run Derby, Miami Marlins first basemen Justin Bour took a timeout to be fed Krispy Kreme donuts by teammate Giancarlo Stanton. Humorous and entertaining, but apparently it’s common practice among players.

“As a rookie, I had to get boxes of doughnuts. When I became the man on most of my teams, all of the rookies would have to bring us Krispy Kreme,” O’Neal said. “That was it and I don’t care which way it goes down as long as the Krispy Kremes happen to wind up on that training table in the morning before we go to practice because, really, you get to practice at 10:00 a.m. and guys didn’t really like to wake up and order breakfast so that way we could get something in our stomachs.”

But the day wasn’t just all about doughnuts for the 15-time NBA All-Star, he did discuss the current landscape of the basketball world. For O’Neal, a lot has happened over the course of the past year. He was elected into the NBA Hall of Fame, he got his own statue outside of the Staples Center and is now on the cover of the “Legend Edition” of NBA 2K18, which O’Neal describes as an honor.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchisee Shaquille O’Neal celebrates the 80th birthday of Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnut by serving free doughnuts to fans during an event, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts/AP Images)

When you’re still that much in the spotlight after being retired for six seasons, that’s a true testament to one’s influence on the sport. So naturally, the topic of “NBA Super Teams” arises the day after the ESPYS when Peyton Manning mocked Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City to join Golden State to win a championship.

The four-time NBA Champion played on some incredible teams and reached the NBA Finals with three different organizations, but the free agent and “super team” situation is much different now.

“If you make trades and construct a ‘super team,’ it’s okay. But guys that’s supposed to be competing against each other, I don’t know,” O’neal said. “I think K.D. (Kevin Durant) got a lot of flack because he went to a team that beat them… He’s probably going to get a lot of flack for a lot of years but more power to him.”

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Nowadays you can regularly hear O’Neal’s take on everyone and everything in the basketball world on Inside the NBA, but during our conversationhe made it a point to share that the Sixers are going to be the league’s next great team with Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. When pressed on his predictions for Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and if he can live up to the hype his father has put on him, O’Neal was encouraging.

“I wish the kid well. I hope he does well. Every kid that grows up playing basketball wants to play in the NBA and his dream finally came true,” O’Neal said. “His home, his family and his fans, they’re putting a lot on his shoulders so hopefully he can live up to the challenge.”

Being a staple in the basketball world for 19 years as well as a pop culture icon, O’Neal doesn’t miss playing the game. However, he’s still a bit nostalgic though and understands fans who grew up watching him are as well. That’s why you’ll see a follow up to his 1994 Shaq Fu video game, “Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn.”  He’s getting a re-do on the video game days and out of all of the films he has been in, there is one that stands out to the big man as needing a sequel or a re-boot.

“Steel because we had some okay special effects not like they have now. If I re-did that movie right now, it would be a hit.”

That’s about as much as O’Neal thinks about the past. For now, he has his eyes set on the future and his ambition is all about growing the brand, expanding his Krispy Kreme ownership in the Atlanta, Florida and Louisiana areas, and having fellow doughnut enthusiasts join him on Friday for Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed birthday promotion.

Guests are invited to show how they celebrate Krispy Kreme’s #OriginalGlazed on July 14 by posting a photo with the Original Glazed doughnut and tagging @krispykreme.

Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on  Facebook.