Reebok Isn’t a ‘Hobby’ for Shaquille O’Neal


“Now,” Mr. O’Neal said, “it’s bloggers, emcees, athletes, designers.”

At the N.B.A.’s All-Star weekend in February, as Mr. O’Neal and Mr. Iverson made the rounds wearing Reebok varsity jackets that were personalized with their respective titles, Reebok released an N.B.A.-themed collaboration with Victor Solomon, the Los Angeles artist. (The jackets were Mr. O’Neal’s idea.)

Star players, though, are still an invaluable piece of the puzzle, and Reebok made an immediate, and somewhat surprising, first splash back in October by partnering with Angel Reese, one of the most popular young players in the women’s game. A former all-American at L.S.U., Ms. Reese recently joined the Chicago Sky of the W.N.B.A. as a first-round draft pick.

Mr. O’Neal first met Ms. Reese when he accompanied his daughter Me’Arah, a top high school prospect, on a recruiting trip to his alma mater. Though Ms. O’Neal later committed to the University of Florida, her father became something of a mentor to Ms. Reese.

“She’s like a daughter to me,” Mr. O’Neal said. “She’s fearless. She’s herself.”

Reebok, at Mr. O’Neal’s behest, signed Ms. Reese to an N.I.L. deal in October, making her the first player, man or woman, to be sponsored by the company in the Shaq era.

“No one was expecting a college player, and no one was expecting a woman,” Ms. Reese said in an email, adding, “The world’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to it meant so much to me.”

Mr. Krinsky described Ms. Reese as a “provocative” presence who fits with the company’s ethos of being disruptive. He cited Reebok’s 2001 collaboration with the rapper Jadakiss, who filmed a commercial to promote the release of Mr. Iverson’s signature sneaker, the Answer V. The commercial was perfectly timed as the N.B.A. was leaning into its connection with hip-hop and Black culture, a shift led by players like Mr. Iverson.

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