How Shaq Got Me To Eat Papa John’s

If you’re a pizza connoisseur, you have more cheese-covered options today than ever before. Do you go deep dish, thin crust or pan? How much pepperoni is too much pepperoni? (Trick question: There is no such thing as too much pepperoni.)

Once you agree on a crust and an arsenal of toppings, where do you order from? Pick-up or delivery? Here’s how 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal cut through the pizza shop clutter and convinced me to eat Papa John’s.

1. He Shows Up

When I go to McDonald’s for a burger, I know there’s virtually no chance that McDonald’s spokespeople Justin Timberlake and Kelly Ripa are going to wander in off the street and split a box of McNuggets.

That’s not to knock either of these stars; it’s simply the norm for most brand ambassadors. They’re in an industry where time is money, and money is a yacht named The Codfather.

Shaq is anything but normal. As an investor in several Atlanta-area Papa John’s stores, he’s known to put his mouth where his money is. He’s involved in each of his stores.

Personally, I would feel no guilt over letting a three-time NBA Finals MVP and star of 1996’s “Kazaam” buy me the best gluten free pizza crust in Buckhead. I mean, have you seen those four championship rings? Shaq goes hands-on in a way that other stars don’t.

2. He Actually Believes In Papa John’s

Celebrity endorsements are usually a one-way street. The hottest recording artist of the year agrees to shoot a commercial for a sparkling water company, and that sparking water company pulls up in her driveway with a dump truck full of money. Done.

Shaq’s involvement with Papa John’s is reciprocal. While he is a brand ambassador for Papa John’s, shooting television commercials and promoting pizza deals tonight on social media, he’s also an investor and a member of the Papa John’s 10-person board of directors.

He has a stake in the company in a way that most celebrities don’t when they sign on to post sponsored content on their Instagram accounts or shoot a Super Bowl spot.

3. We Like the Same Things

I’m not just talking about vegan pizza delivery, but that is certainly part of it. Shaq’s personal brand has been positivity and fun since the early ’90s, when he was releasing rap records, starring in kung fu video games and presenting title belts at pro wrestling events.

In the faceless, and often ruthless, corporate world, Shaq stands out — and not just because he’s 7’1.” He’s made a public commitment to inclusivity behind the counter and in the board room at Papa John’s. “I want to be the one to help cultivate a new culture where everyone knows they are loved and respected,” O’Neal told

4. He Was 6 Feet, 4 Inches Tall in Fourth Grade

Frankly, this suggests to me that the Inside the NBA commentator knows something about nutrition. If Shaq believes that better ingredients make better pizza, I do too — even if it’s unlikely that I’ll have a sudden growth spurt.

Pizza lovers, like all consumers, speak with their wallets. On pizza night, mine says, “I’ll have what Shaq’s having.” Support companies you can feel good about long after the tomato sauce stains on your receipt have dried.


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