The latest random act of Shaqness is going to space.
Shaquille O’Neal, the retired four-time champion center with the National Basketball Association, plans to align his chain restaurant company with suborbital launching company Blue Origin.
O’Neal-owned Big Chicken will work with Blue’s children-focused nonprofit, Club for the Future, to launch “new community outreach programs” at the chain’s restaurants. Big Chicken will also participate in the Postcards to Space program that sends drawings beyond Earth’s atmosphere, the company said in a release (opens in new tab) Thursday (Feb. 10).
Blue Origin sends tourists and payloads on brief suborbital space journeys of a few minutes, but hasn’t flown in five months following an uncrewed anomaly with its New Shepard system on Sept. 12, 2022. The company has said nothing about how the investigation is going.
Related: Failure of Blue Origin’s New Shepard a reminder that spaceflight is still hard
Big Chicken has locations in 10 states and aboard Carnival Cruise liners; it also ships food nationwide, according to its website (opens in new tab). The company is planning to expand to 200 U.S. locations in the coming years.
“Living and working in space for the benefit of Earth should be delicious,” Michael Edmonds, a senior vice-president at Blue Origin and president of Club for the Future, said in the Big Chicken statement.
“Shaq’s Big Chicken and Club for the Future will fuel students’ appetites and minds as they pursue careers in STEM — all while delivering some of Earth’s tastiest foods to space,” added Edmonds.
We dreamed so BIG; it’s out of this world! We teamed up with @BlueOrigin and @ClubForFuture for the Future to ignite curiosity among the next generation and advance the dream of building restaurants in space. Let’s GO BIG & work towards a future in space for the benefit of Earth. pic.twitter.com/gxRWaGdlmYFebruary 9, 2023
At a rumored seven feet (2.1 meters) in height, it’s unlikely that Shaq will join any New Shepard crew as the height requirement technically tops off at 6 feet, 4 inches (1.93 m). That said, New Shepard was able to fit in “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan, who towers at 6 feet, 5 inches (1.95 m), during a December 2021 jaunt. (Passengers wear no spacesuits during missions.)
O’Neal came from a difficult childhood and has credited the Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of Newark for giving him “something to do” to keep him off the streets, whether it be shooting hoops or doing homework, according to a Parade article (opens in new tab) published in February 2000 available on Archive.org.
“I’m proud to team up with Blue Origin to help inspire the next generation,” O’Neal said in the release. “This first-of-its-kind partnership is a game changer and I’m excited to take the chicken sandwich game to a whole new level.”
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O’Neal, who received his bachelor of arts (opens in new tab) from Louisiana State University in 2000 after delaying his studies for basketball, is known for controversial comments in 2017 where he declared the Earth was flat. He confirmed (opens in new tab) his position in a 2022 appearance on Australia’s “The Kyle & Jackie O Show”, according to People Magazine.
He has also been a supporter of cryptocurrencies (opens in new tab), which have been criticized by numerous people for high price volatility and for benefiting only a select few investors, typically those that have substantial money already to put in the market.
Nevertheless, Shaq is best known outside of basketball for his charitable giving, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and volunteer organizations. The former sports star and television personality is even known to go out of his way to help random strangers (opens in new tab) in need, according to People.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).
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