Waffles and Walmart: Shaq mania sweeps through Blount County

In this July 2, 2010 file photo originally provided by The Greenbrier Resort, Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal attends the gala opening of The Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Evan Agostini/Associated Press/ The Greenbrier Resort

In this July 2, 2010 file photo originally provided by The Greenbrier Resort, Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal attends the gala opening of The Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

In this July 2, 2010 file photo originally provided by The Greenbrier Resort, Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal attends the gala opening of The Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Evan Agostini/Associated Press/ The Greenbrier Resort

In this July 2, 2010 file photo originally provided by The Greenbrier Resort, Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal attends the gala opening of The Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

This is Blount County’s version of a Shaq attack.

Numerous reports of Shaquille O’Neal making the rounds in Blount County lately have him showing up in local eateries and even a Walmart.

At 7-foot-1 and 350 pounds, it’s kind of hard to miss him. Many local fans have posted their photos with the NBA star on Facebook.

Why is the newly signed Boston Celtics player suddenly being so public around here? O’Neal reportedly has been dating Blount County resident Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander, a former reality show contestant (from the VH1 shows “I Love Money” and "Flavor of Love"). More recent reports say O’Neal and Alexander became engaged less than a week ago in St. Louis.

Web reports say O’Neal and Alexander may be sharing a house together, possibly at the Royal Oak subdivision.

Interest is certainly building around East Tennessee as O’Neal becomes more public. He’s the topic of local morning radio talk shows. Local topics on the Internet are also buzzing about Shaq being around here.

Other sightings:

+ O’Neal and Alexander showed up at Jet Pizza in Maryville and got a to-go order recently. Owner Mike Roberts says the place went crazy.

“My staff stopped working,” Roberts says. “People from the bar next door came over.”

Though O’Neal was only in the eatery a few minutes, he spent much of his time posing for photos and signing autographs.

+ On Saturday, O’Neal was seen at the Alcoa Walmart, a place he has frequented a few times this summer. None of the store’s staff approached him, but cell phone cameras were snapping. Alexander was with him there, too.

+ At The Roaming Gnome Pub and Eatery in Maryville in July, O’Neal took time for photos with employees.

+ O’Neal — who was on an organic diet in May, according to Sports Illustrated —has eaten a few meals at the Waffle House on Alcoa Highway.

He’s been to the diner a few times in recent weeks. Alexander is a frequent customer there. When he and Alexander dined there last week, he ate six scrambled eggs with cheese, two waffles and a cheese omelette, says Ton Bradley, Waffle House district manager.

O’Neal is a good tipper. He left $50 for his $20 meal.

Only one customer asked O’Neal for a photo. Employees of the Waffle House approached him one at a time for photos and autographs. He signed mugs at the restaurant, too.

“I told my employees I didn’t mind them asking him (for photos or an autograph), but they had to do it one at a time,” Bradley says.

“He was just there to have a good time.”

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Comments » 18

exit109 writes:

a good guy....

firefly writes:

What's wrong with Shaq? He's a good guy.

websiteworld_com writes:

I lived in Orlando in the 90's and he came into the Olive Garden to eat and is a very nice man.

jeffrya writes:

Florida is awesome. Remember the dangling chads, pregnant chads, angry chads, silly chads, in the 2000 election? Florida couldn't vote him out of the state if they wanted to, the chad variations would make it impossible. You can't say Florida without the Dah. Welcome Shaq !

atlkevin writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

keepitreal4vols writes:

People in Blount Co never seen a 7'1 350lb man before?

misti8 writes:

Small world. I went to Cole High School with Shaq in SanAntonio. Even after his graduating and gaining popularity, he was still very nice and down to earth. I hope he feels welcome here in East Tn!

skypr writes:

I saw him and maybe the same girl about a year or so ago at a gas station near William Blount drive and 411 driving a black Ford 650 truck that was customized to the max, seems like it was a 6 door? I asked him about his truck and he answered my questions, and was very nice, I did not realize at the time that it was him.

trollhair writes:

Leave the man alone. Just because he is a celebrity doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed privacy. It doesn't hurt to say hello, but to gawk at him when he is buying a pizza is at the point of obsession or lunacy.

ArmyWifey98 writes:

He has had a house in Maryville for many years now. No one knew it until now. Now that he is dating Hoopz. Well.... now that he is open about dating Hoopz.

thew222 writes:

How is he?

VOLtage writes:

Living in a house at Royal Oaks? I wonder which one. I've probably hit every one of them playing golf there.

websiteworld_com writes:

in response to skypr:

I saw him and maybe the same girl about a year or so ago at a gas station near William Blount drive and 411 driving a black Ford 650 truck that was customized to the max, seems like it was a 6 door? I asked him about his truck and he answered my questions, and was very nice, I did not realize at the time that it was him.

How could you see a 7'1" 350 pound man and not realize it was Shaq? Would you recognize Tiger Woods?

SutherlandAve writes:

in response to Bob1701f:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LOL I wouldn't post this if that comment was not true!

bmh7896 writes:

South Florida...isn't that called Cuba now?

miz_skribble writes:

in response to websiteworld_com:

How could you see a 7'1" 350 pound man and not realize it was Shaq? Would you recognize Tiger Woods?

Could've been Wilt Chamberlain, bulking up for "Celebrity Fit Club"..

(I think somebody's jealous...) ;)

lacey52 writes:

I'm from Blount County, so I'm wondering who Nicole Alexander is, does anyone know? Who are Nicole parents?

Im_just_sayin writes:

Honestly, who cares? and where are his kids? Is she willing to deal with them and be a step-mom? I heard she was with T.I. before he got married. I don't see this relationship lasting at all.

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