Shaq Opens Second Las Vegas Big Chicken Restaurant

Shaq Opens Second Las Vegas Big Chicken Restaurant

Posted: January 9, 2023, 01:44 am.

Last updated on: January 9, 2023, 01:50.

Can Shaquille O’Neal become as big in the game of chicken as he was in that other game? The 15-time NBA All-Star is set to open the second Las Vegas location of his Big Chicken restaurant. The fast food franchise will open Thursday, Jan. 12 at the former Bok Bok Chicken site at 9595 W. Tropicana Ave.

Former LA Laker Shaquille O’Neal poses with sandwiches prepared at his first Big Chicken restaurant, which he opened in Las Vegas in 2018. (Image: Big Chicken)

The 7-foot former superstar center is one of three owners of the Big Chicken, which can now be found in 10 states and on three Carnival Cruise ships. Big Chicken offers an artery-clogging cornucopia of fried chicken sandwiches with names that all have special meanings to O’Neal.

It’s personal,” O’Neal told trade publication Franchise Times in March. “I wanted them all to have names and identities, stories behind the sandwiches.” The Uncle Jerome, for example, is a spicy Nashville hot chicken sandwich named for O’Neal’s friend and longtime bodyguard Jerome Crawford, who always slathered his chicken in hot sauce.

There’s also the Charles Barkley, which includes mac & cheese, fried onions, and roasted garlic BBQ aioli. O’Neal — who has a long-running feud with his fellow NBA Hall of Famer that veers from playful to ugly — told Franchise Times that he gave the sandwich that name because “it’s the clumsiest sandwich you can make sometimes”.

“I think it’s fair to say I hate Charles Barkley,” O’Neil elaborated to his interviewer with a laugh. “If he was here right now, I’d punch him in the face.” Apparently, Barkley wasn’t happy with the “honor,” as the sandwich is now listed on Big Chicken’s website as a Big & Sloppy.

Shaq opened the first Big Chicken in Las Vegas in October 2018, at the site of the former Origin India restaurant across from the Virgin Hotel. He documented the restaurant’s progress before opening with a series of Facebook videos called “Big Chicken Shaq.”

Big Chicken has also opened restaurants in LA and Dayton, Ohio, as well as venues at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, New York’s UBS Arena and Austin’s Moody Center. According to Franchise Times, more than 150 new locations are in development.

The franchise game is not new to O’Neal. At one point, he owned 155 Five Guys restaurants, several 24 Hour Fitness locations and 17 Auntie Anne’s stores. He is now a Krispy Kreme franchisee and a Papa John’s board member and investor in nine locations.

Raised by a drill sergeant father who “wasn’t satisfied and never told me not to be satisfied,” O’Neal told Franchise Times that he didn’t want to be part of the 60% of NBA players who were broke down after they left the league.

In 2019, O’Neal also opened Shaquille’s, an upscale restaurant featuring Southern cuisine, across from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This also features the same fried chicken as Big Chicken, but on the bone.

In a May 2022 interview with Urban Eats & Treats, a food and travel series from Comedy Studio Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud, O’Neal admitted to eating a mostly vegan diet for health reasons.

Whenever I want to cheat, he told interviewer Rip Michaels at an Atlanta restaurant called Slutty Vegan, “I come here and cheat… I can eat healthy, but I still feel like I’m eating bad.”

In 2019, O’Neal joined 13 other professional athletes as investors and ambassadors for the vegan brand Beyond Meat.

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