Shaquille O’Neal considers himself to be just one of us.
“I live in your area. It’s my home. I have lived in your area for four years,” the former professional basketball player said in a recent interview. “I’ve been in Maryville- Alcoa. I’m a local.”
He likes the area in general, having made his home on “a couple of acres” and is looking for even a bigger area to buy and develop into a home spread for him and his love, Nikki “Hoopz” Alexander, who is from Maryville (and notably a former contestant on cable reality shows such as VH1’s “I Love Money” and “Flavor of Love”). She got him to move here.
“I like where I live. It’s nice and quiet and close to the highway,” he said. “Whenever I leave Atlanta to go home, I jump on that 75/86 (Interstate). I drive on through Atlanta. I’ll just come up there to relax.”
He likes to ride his horses and let his mind run free from business affairs and being such an in-demand celebrity.
But he’s hardly a celebrity-in-hiding type. When he first moved to the area, he was perfectly public, being spotted doing late-night shopping at Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and eating at local pizza establishments.
Locals stop and gawk, take out their cell phones for photos and have called the newspaper several times to share their Shaq sightings.
“I’ve always been one of those humble-people persons,” he said. “Although I am considered to be in the ‘super-star’ categories, I’ve never considered myself a superstar. I like to take it easy.”
As for being spotted in public — hey, how can you miss a 7-foot-1, 325-pound guy — he takes it in stride.
“Everybody around town knows I live there. They know I am a local.
“There’s no need to hide. Knoxville is home to me. I have a lot of friends and a lot of family there. I just like taking it easy whenever I am at home.”
O’Neal is making plans to be back in Maryville by the end of the month.
Meanwhile he’s one busy dude. He’s a producer on the new TruTV Internet clip show “Upload with Shaquille O’Neal,” which follows a similar format as “Tosh.0,” whereas “Upload” mocks the latest comedy clips circulating the web.
The show airs 10:30 p.m. Thursdays.
O’Neal and his staff pore over hours of clips on the web. “Some are really funny,” he said, “and some you wish you’d never seen (in the first place).”
He doesn’t really mind being compared to other video clip shows on cable right now. “There area lot of outrageous things out there right now,” he said. “You can take the same clip and get a thousand different ways to look at it.”
Fans send him clips. A recent one that made him laugh was of a man trying to jump off a roof. “You see a lot of pleasant stuff, and you see a lot of unpleasant stuff,” he said.
Yes, O’Neal occasionally tries to mimic what he’s seen.
“I tried to climb a tree the other night, and I fell,” he said.
Why did he do that?
“Because I wanted to climb a tree,” he said, “and the people walking by me wanted to act like a bird.”
Well, of course.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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