Shaquille O’Neal was in Times Square Thursday to celebrate Krispy Kreme’s 80th birthday, so we decided to talk all things food with the NBA legend. The 45-year-old, who owns a company franchise in Atlanta, talked about his love of glazed doughnuts (he can eat a box in one sitting), his favorite french fries (McDonalds, no hesitation) and more eats-related topics.
The full live interview can be found on the Sports Illustrated Facebook page.
Editor’s note: Some questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Tanner Walters: So, why are you here?
Shaquille O’Neal: I’m here to celebrate Krispy Kreme’s 80th birthday of the original glazed doughnut. Tomorrow, July 14th—I know that because it’s the same day as my mother’s birthday (happy birthday mom, by the way)—you buy a dozen, you get another box for 80 cents. Only tomorrow. So make sure you go to your local Krispy Kreme and eat away.
TW: You own a franchise of Krispy Kreme, is that correct?
SO: Yes, I own a franchise in Atlanta in Ponce de Leon. It’s the No. 1 franchise in Atlanta. I thank the people of Atlanta for supporting me. It’s a great place.
TW: Any other stores or franchises that might be in your future?
SO: When it’s all said and done I’d like to own 100 franchises. Just started a company called Shaquille O’Meals, I’m gonna be looking to purchase a couple food franchises.
TW: Are you a big doughnut guy in general?
TW: How many could you eat in one sitting?
SO: I could probably eat a whole box.
TW: Will you be eating a whole box today?
SO: No, I’m not gonna do that. You can never eat just one or two. You eat one or two, then it’s three or four, then five and six, then seven, eight, and then you start to feel it but there’s only four left. So you’re like, ‘you know what, might as well polish these off.’
TW: Have you heard of doughnut burgers? Like putting Krispy Kreme doughnuts as buns.
SO: Yeah, I’ve heard of it but I’m not a fan of that. I’m not a fan of that. For example, I’d never eat bread pudding because I don’t like how it sounds.
TW: Are you a breakfast guy in general? Still not a coffee guy?
SO: Not really. I’ve never seen anyone in my family drink coffee, I’m not a big coffee guy. I like tea.
TW: Do you cook much?
SO: I have a chef, young man.
TW: What is the best thing they make?
SO: His name is Alex. He makes a hell of a breakfast. Chicken caesar salad. Makes a hell of a Shaq McMuffin.
TW: What’s that?
SO: Sausage and egg on a big ol’ piece of Shaq-sized bread. My mother taught him how to make fried chicken, so he makes fried chicken. Macaroni and cheese. It’s really good.
TW: Does your family cook?
SO: My mom cooks, but I don’t like my mom to cook because she raised five of us and she’s retired. Do I cook? The only thing I can cook is Smack Ramen, you might refer to it as Top Ramen. I call it Smack Ramen.
TW: So you played in a bunch of cities over your career, which city would you say has the best food when you go out to eat?
SO: I would go with Miami. It’s on the water, you have Joe’s Stone Crab , you’ve got Prime 112—best restaurant in the world—you’ve got PF Changs, you have so many options on the beach, Smashburger. It’s awesome.
TW: Other than bread pudding, any foods you can’t stand?
SO: I’ve never tried bread pudding and I never will. I always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the name just doesn’t sound right I don’t think I can do it. For example, it took me about 30 years before I even tried cheesecake. I’d never had cheesecake, and then one day I was in a New York deli and I was like, ‘wow, I’ve really been missing cheesecake.’
TW: Cheesecake is pretty tame once you’ve tried it.
SO: But just think about it. Cheese. Cake.
TW: I’ve read that Kobe had some game where it was said he ate a whole pepperoni pizza and grape soda the night before. And the next day all he had were burgers and fries. Did you have irresponsible pregame meals?
SO: Yeah, I always used to eat two club sandwiches with extra mayo, some fries.
TW: Could you feel that during a game?
SO: Nah. We’d practice at 11:30 (a.m.), eat at 12, take a nap from 12-4, by four o’clock it’s all gone. Wake up and eat steak for dinner, especially before a game.
TW: So what do an average day’s meals look like now?
SO: Wake up for breakfast, maybe a light buffet. Second meal is some fruit. Third meal is salad. Fourth meal is probably biggest of the day for dinner, chicken or fish. And last a snack, like some pecans.
TW: I think today is National French Fry Day, some people are really passionate—
SO: McDonald’s fries.
SO: I already knew. I don’t know. Always been my favorite, especially when they’re hot. Woo-wee.
TW: Any other hot food takes?
SO: Cane’s Chicken Tenders. Ever had Cane’s? Get down south and check out Cane’s. Chicken tenders, fries. It’s the best. Dairy Queen soft serve, too.
TW: Last question: How many doughnuts do you think you’ll eat today?
SO: I’ll probably polish off five today.