Not many people can call themselves a living meme, but not many people are basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, a notable addition to the ranks of extremely meme-able sports icons. In between becoming a Korean reality television star and headlining the likes of TomorrowWorld as DJ Diesel, Shaq has managed to wiggle his way into the hearts and minds of meme lovers across the globe, thanks to his ebullient personality and varied assortment of excellent facial expressions.
Beyond being a meme, Shaq is also a noted Krispy Kreme enthusiast—so much so that he currently serves as the brand’s global spokesperson. To celebrate the fact that the chain will be offering its iconic original glazed doughnut covered in a chocolate glaze on the every first Friday of the month, we sat down with the legend himself to chat about everything from his favorite meme to his aspirations for a doughnut empire. Read our Q&A, below.
We’re here primarily thanks to your love of Krispy Kreme. What is it about these doughnuts that make them so special to you?
Personally, they've been my favorite doughnut ever since I tried it in 1988. Great doughnut, great product… Just the way they taste, especially when they're hot. I've had them cold, I've had them hot, and they taste the same! I own a franchise in Atlanta. My dream is to own about 30 of them.
I know you originally said you wanted 100 franchises though—why give up on the empire?
It was 100, but that wasn't getting any response, so I'm going to bring it down to 30. Then when I get my 30, I'll say 50. [They’ll be in] Atlanta, Louisiana, California—the places that people see me at.
Are there any other food franchises that you're thinking about getting into?
I'm about to start one called The Big Chicken. Similar to [Raising] Cane's, Popeyes, and all that. I'm gonna start off with one and see how it goes. Hopefully, I’ll get to branch out.
Switching gears a little, I wanted to talk to you about being a being a beloved internet meme. Like, you have your own KnowYourMeme page.
I didn't know that.
You didn't know that?! That’s a huge accomplishment in this day and age.
I'm sure all the memes are funny. I know a lot of celebrities are so stuck on themselves. But if it's funny, it's funny. Doesn't matter if you're talking about me, talking about something I did. To all the meme makers, you can make any meme you want about me—I'm gonna laugh at it. I'm not going to sue you. You're not gonna hurt my feelings. If I can be part of something that makes someone look at their phone and laugh for a couple seconds, [that’s great]. When you bring someone back up, it brightens up your day, and you can start to build yourself back up, too. So if I'm part of somebody's day getting brighter, I'm all for it.
I love this aura of positivity and lightheartedness you always seem to have. Do you think that's why people gravitate toward you in terms of meme-making?
Yeah, I mean I'm not one of those guys that's stuck on themselves... My thing is you can't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Just because I make more money than people, don't mean I'm better than them. I always treat people with honor and respect—no matter where you're from, no matter what you look like. This world supposed to be about positivity. There's a lot of negativity going on. I don't want to be on that side of the fence. I want to be on the side of making people laugh, making people happy, making people feel good about themselves. Period.
I think kids gravitate toward me because they look at me and they see a little bit of themselves in me. For example, when I see those big Wall Street guys, I can't relate to them. That's not me. I'm not smart enough to go to Harvard. I'm not smart enough to create apps. That's not me. So when I was coming up, I couldn't look at lawyers and doctors—I looked at rappers. I looked at basketball players. I could do that. A lot of kids look at me and see themselves in me. Now, I look at a lot of business people and see myself in them.
Do you have a favorite meme of yourself?
This one. [Shaq wiggles]
Yeah, it's my favorite one.
Let’s talk for a second now about your DJ career. I know you’re about to embark on a big tour as DJ Diesel!
I've been DJing since '88, but I got away from it when I started doing [rap] albums. For me, DJing is all about the adrenaline of capturing the crowd. I’ve had that [compulsion] all my life. So for me, DJing is like Game Seven—give me the goddamn ball and let me go to work. It’s not about money for me. I just like seeing young kids dance to my music. My style is trap, dubstep, and hip-hop. I went to TomorrowWorld.
What do you love about the current EDM scene?
I like how all the DJs are rocking it. I went to EDM Fest. I was on top of the VIP section, and there had to be a half a million people out there, but I saw countries that don't get along rocking their flags [together]. Almost brought a tear to my eye. I was like, “Wow.” I always tell people, the two things that bring people together—no matter what's going on—sports and music. That's it. So when I saw that, I was like, “I miss it.” Like, “Dang, I think I can do that 'cause I've been DJing for a while. I've been doing that.”
Okay, final question. I know everyone’s been wondering why you didn’t go with the DJ name Shaq Fu.
'Cause everyone knows me as Diesel. The reason why I’m Diesel is because I’m like a diesel truck coming down a hill with no brakes. Nobody can stop me.