Holiday Gift Guide

Shaq: This Christmas gift 'changed my life and inspired me to be who I am today'

Shaquille O'Neal
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Exchanging gifts is a major part of celebrating the holidays, but according to Shaquille O'Neal, it's better to give than to receive.

"I don't accept gifts," the NBA Hall of Famer recently told The New York Post's Page Six. "You show me a movie where Santa receives gifts, and I'll take one." Instead, he prefers to spend his holiday every year handing out gifts to hundreds of kids in need through his Shaq-A-Claus event.

While O'Neal, 47, doesn't take any gifts, he believes they have the power to shape a child's future.

"I didn't get a lot of toys growing up with brothers and sisters. I was the oldest one, and my father used to be like, 'I gotta take care of the little ones. I'll get you later,'" he said in a Q&A with Sports Illustrated Kids in 2014. "Then one day, when I thought I wasn't getting anything for Christmas, he surprised me with a [signed] Dr. J basketball."

O'Neal has always been open about his admiration for Julius Erving (a.k.a. Dr. J), who retired in 1987 as a 16-time ABA and NBA All-Star — and even called him "the greatest player ever."

"That basketball changed my life. It inspired me to be who I am today," O'Neal told The News-Herald in 2009.

On Wednesday, O'Neal visited Wesley Lakes Elementary School in Atlanta to deliver holiday gifts to underprivileged children. "Nothing is more rewarding than making a child's Christmas a little brighter when their families may not have the means," he said in the press release.

If you want to follow in O'Neal's holiday-giving tradition, there are a handful of organizations that make donating toys easy, such as Toys for Tots and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

For those in need of ideas, here are some of the gifts Shaq-A-Claus checked off the schoolchildren's holiday wish lists this year:

Tom Popomaronis is a leadership researcher, commerce expert, cross-industry innovation leader and VP of Innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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