If you’re a server at a restaurant and you see a 7-foot-1 customer who looks surprisingly like Shaquille O’Neal, you’d better be ready when he asks you one important question. It’s not whether he was your all-time favorite NBA big man or whether you’ve seen “Kazaam” all the way through. No, when Shaq asks you what kind of tip you want, you’d better be ready to give him a dollar amount—because that’s what you’re going to get.
During his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, O’Neal told the host that he liked to show his appreciation for hard-working waitstaff, but instead of just leaving a wad of bills on the table, he asks each server what they want. “The most someone said was $4,000,” O’Neal said. “And I said ‘OK, no problem.'”
That’s right. Shaq gave this waitress $4,000, which she said was enough to cover two months of her rent. “You should’ve punched them in the head is what you should’ve done,” Kimmel joked (so if Kimmel is seated in your section, you might want to launch his entrees from a safe distance).
O’Neal said that he usually tipped his valet $300, but he’d “keep driving” if he didn’t have that kind of cash in his pocket. That’s probably not true; Shaq has had a long-standing reputation as being an excellent tipper, stretching back to his first few seasons in the NBA. In 1997, a bellman at a Utah Marriott said that O’Neal gave him $100 for driving him to McDonald’s to get a Big Mac. And in 2015, when he made a surprise appearance at a Waffle House in Wytheville, Virginia, he gave each waitress in the restaurant $20. “I knew he was somebody, I just didn’t know who,” relief manager Toni Freedman told SWVA Today. (Dream bigger, Waffle House workers!)
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Although $4,000 is a solid amount to pocket at the end of a shift, it’s not even close to what Charles Barkley has given away. The retired once tipped a casino worker $25,000 (Barkley had just won $700,000 at blackjack). “I think it’s important when you’re successful, the waiter, the waitresses, the blackjack dealers, they work extremely hard, they don’t get a great salary,” Barkley told Conan O’Brien in 2014. “The more successful you are, the more you should tip, I truly believe that […] I probably should have tipped more to be honest with you.”