Movie star. Rapper. Celebrity. Police officer. Oh yeah, he also has played in the NBA for 18 years.
He’s known as “Shaq,” and like a one-named soccer star in Europe, everyone knows Shaquille O’Neal by that single nickname. A mountain of a man, the 7’1”, 325 pound center has dominated the paint throughout his career and is regarded as one of the good guys of the NBA. He volunteers significant time to charity and always dons his “Shaqa Clause” outfit for Christmas, wandering through the toy stores buying thousands of dollars of toys for the underprivileged.
Because he’s always been larger than life, he’s also been a tough autograph through the years, at least through the mail.
This month’s shocker was successful signatures coming back from Shaq’s new shack in Boston, an address that proved elusive for a few weeks until collectors struck gold. Could it be a relative or secretary signing the items sent to his house? Always possible, but the first sign is positive. Someone is signing the cards and photos – definitely not an autopen or stamp, as the autographs I’ve seen are clearly the use of a Sharpie on top of a picture.
As I always do when the subject of authenticity rears its ugly head, I examined several certified autographed cards for sale on the auction sites. What I see has me almost excited. The autograph looks just like many of his pack-pulled autographs. And you just know that mailbox is filling up quickly and the window of opportunity is almost always short with a star of his caliber.
The lovable big man has done it all in his first 39 years and done so with a smile on his face. How can you not like Shaq? Sure he has a little trouble at the charity stripe, but he also has four championship rings. He has also released four rap albums, one that went platinum. The big screen? Sure he’s done that. Blue Chips and Kazaam are two of Shaq’s flicks, although he won’t be hoisting any Oscars awards any time soon. He’s also done several reality shows.
Shaq doesn’t plan on riding his basketball talents forever. After leaving LSU after three years, he returned to earn his Bachelor’s degree in 2000. He them earned his MBA in 2005 online. Shaq still isn’t done and is now working on a PhD in Leadership and Education. Why would a guy with untold wealth and fame push himself to excel in his studies? Simple. Shaq gets it – he has even said that one day he will have to put down the basketball and get a real job like everyone else.
His accolades are long in Shaq’s career, but the one that sticks out to me is being selected into the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History” club in 1997. In college, he was a beast and earned Player of the Year in 1991. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in Orlando, earned three straight rings with Los Angeles, and another one in Miami. He was the NBA’s MVP in 2000. Who knows how much longer Shaq will play? And who knows how much longer he’ll answer his mail?
Rocky still class act
One of our country’s great military heroes also continues to honor fan requests by going above and beyond, just like he has his entire life.
Not only did former Vietnam veteran and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Rocky Bleier return the picture and card I mailed his, he sent me two of his own! He sent a signed 8-by-10 glossy and a really cool reprint of one of his Sports Illustrated covers, also autographed.
Bleier was a key member of the Notre Dame team that won the National Championship in 1966 and was the captain in 1967. He played one year for the Steelers before being drafted into the Army. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was wounded by a bullet and shrapnel in his leg. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his bravery.
Told he would never play again, Bleier was determined to make it back. He was waived twice but finally earned his way back on the team by building up his leg and body strength with offseason workouts. He was part of four Super Bowl teams and even rushed for 1,000 yards, along with Franco Harris, in 1976.
Bleier has always been a fan favorite and a great signer both in person and through the mail.
Too Tall comes through
Another football hero from the 1970s recently returned our autograph request. Ed “Too Tall” Jones from the Dallas Cowboys has been off and on over the years through the mail. He seems to be signing now, so don’t delay in your request. Jones signed both of the cards and a picture we mailed him.
With one of the best nicknames in football, Jones is a must for your collection. The 6’9” monster was part of the famed “Doomsday Defense” and logged more than 100 sacks in his career (although only credited with 56 because sacks were not officially counted early in his career). He earned a ring with the Cowboys’ 1978 Super Bowl victory over the Broncos.
An all-around athlete, Jones put his football career on hold after just five years and tried his hand at boxing. He won all six bouts but decided to return to the gridiron, where he played another nine years.
The Big O is back
Rumor has it that Hall of Famer Oscar “Big O” Robertson has been signing again through the mail. He was a great signer for years but then stopped signing about five years ago unless you caught him in person or at a show.
That’s how the mail game is played. Players signing habits change throughout their careers and life, so don’t give up just because a particular player isn’t returning his fan mail at the moment.
As luck would have it, I stumbled across the Big O’s autobiography the same week I heard he was signing again. I am mailing out his book, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game, along with a card. The book is a really nice piece, too, with a black background along with raised gold lettering. Silver or gold paint pen will look perfect. I’ll keep you posted.
555 Concord Rd.
Sudbury, MA. 01776
959 Osage Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15243
1 Lost Valley Dr.
Dallas, TX 75234
621 Tusculum Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45226-1771
This address, as well as thousands more, can be found at www.autographchaser.com.