If you ask NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal what his favorite Christmas gift was as a kid, he’ll mention an autographed Julius Erving basketball (received when he was nine) and a boom box (when he was 13).
O’Neal—also known to the world as Shaq—also remembers how his dad used to pull him aside for secret father-son talks. Because money was sometimes scarce, his father would tell him that he’d only be able to get gifts for his sisters right away, but that he’d be getting a young Shaq his own gift by the time he received his next paycheck.
O’Neal has come a long way since then. And now—along with four national championships, a few movie credits, tech investments, restaurants and plenty of brand sponsorships—he has two kids of his own. However, he hasn’t forgotten the countless kids still waiting on gifts under the tree.
“Fifteen to 20 million children will wake up on Christmas Day and not receive one toy,” he told Adweek. “That’s disappointing. That’s disheartening for me.”
That’s why for the past 26 years, O’Neal has celebrated Shaq-A-Claus, where he delivers toys to children in need. And for this holiday season, he’s partnering with Zappos to help give even more.
On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Zappos will match every toy donated by customers, some of which will be donated by O’Neal when he visits Boys and Girls Club locations in Newark, N.J.,—his hometown—and the hometown of Zappos in Las Vegas. To make it even easier, Zappos is letting customers mail toys directly to the company, offering a downloadable pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping label.
While this is the first time Zappos has been a partner, O’Neal said he started the program in 1992 by himself before Toys ‘R’ Us joined the cause a couple of years later. He said that being a father has reminded him that it doesn’t always matter what the toy is as long as everyone gets at least one. (Zappos did put a price limit on their match offer of $25 per toy.)
“You’re supposed to be happy on two days of your life—on your birthday and Christmas,” he said. “If we can’t do that, something is wrong with us as a nation.”
Zappos couldn’t be reached for comment about the partnership. However, the company’s website did provide some recommended ideas for what to donate: educational toys, sports equipment, dolls or actions figures, building blocks sets, portable video game systems and plush toys.
“We’re thrilled to offer our customers an opportunity to make the holiday season a bit brighter for children in need and feel the joy that giving back can bring,” Steven Bautista, head of charitable giving at Zappos, said in a statement. “We’re especially excited to be working with Shaq–for a big guy, he’s got an even bigger heart, and his philanthropic determination aligns perfectly with Zappos’ core values, making him a perfect fit–figuratively speaking of course (he’s got a few inches on us).”