Shaquille O’Neal has accomplished a lot in his 19-year NBA career, but none of that may compare to what he did for a 12-year-old boy and his family.
Isaiah Payton, who lives in Atlanta, was left paralyzed from the chest down in August after he and his 15-year-old friend Damean Spear were shot while leaving a high school football game.
Spear was shot in the leg and was able to leave the hospital. However, Payton remained because he’s now disabled, and his mother’s apartment wasn’t equipped to house him.
The tragedy seemed to touch the city deeply, and Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is currently working with the family. The city of Atlanta Fire Department has created a one-year budget for them.
As for O’Neal, he heard about the tragic story on the news, and it prompted him to get involved by finding a house for the boy’s mother.
“So we found her a house,” O’Neal told a local news outlet. “I’m going to pay her rent for the year, and I’m going to give her some furniture, and it’s sad because her son is paralyzed from the chest down and no mother should have to go through that.”
“It could have been any one of us,” he added. “It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin and she was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys, so we found her a house in College Park, nice area. I’m going to get her some ring cameras on me. We’re going to give her some furniture, TVs and pay her rent off for a year and help her get on her feet.”
The former Los Angeles Lakers center recently partnered with the pizza chain Papa John’s and is now a board member, as well as a pitchman. And Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch and its Chairman of the Board Jeff Smith personally dug into their pockets to help with the home.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Atlanta Police arrested a 15-year-old male for the shooting, and he’s been charged with aggravated assault. The suspect’s name has not been released.
O’Neal also made headlines for his generosity in May when he purchased 10 pairs of shoes for a Georgia teen who wears a size 18. The teen’s mother said at times she’s unable to afford his shoes.
And in April, the retired hoops star phoned a woman who was diagnosed with stage 4 brain, lung and breast cancer, because she said meeting O’Neal was on her bucket list.