When you’re one of the world’s greatest pro basketball players ever, you can celebrate your birthday anywhere. Shaquille O’Neal and girlfriend Nicole Alexander, who make their home in Maryville, decided they’d spend his 41st in Pigeon Forge.
The two took in dinner and the March 6 show at the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show, the establishment announced.
“We didn’t know he was coming,” said Deborah Fee Newsom of the Hatfield and McCoy show. “He didn’t have his photo made (as other guests do) at the door.”
But when you’re 7-foot-1 and as recognizable as O’Neal, it’s a little difficult to blend in. Since moving to Maryville four years ago, O’Neal has hardly been shy about going out in public. He shocks many when he’s seen walking down the aisle at Lowe’s and other Blount County businesses.
In a recent interview with the News Sentinel, he told me the public has been gracious to him. He also considers Maryville to be his home, though he’s often away on business.
“I live in your area. It’s my home ... I’m a local,” the former professional basketball player said.
They chose the Hatfield and McCoy show because a friend of Alexander’s is a dancer in its production.
He and Alexander dined on chicken, barbecue and soup. They also had four small birthday cakes. Later, Alexander and two of her female friends sampled moonshine the show offers, a source said.
O’Neal was also a gracious tipper, doubling the biggest tip his waiter ever received, the source said.
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.