Shaq spoke out yesterday to deny claims he was close with the alleged scammer who last week was arrested and charged with running a $900 million Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of at least $80 million.
"I knew who he was," O'Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday, after his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 121-98. "He was an associate. A lot of guys in Miami hang out. I'm the kind of guy, I'm nice to everybody."
O'Neal admitted he had once bench pressed Shapiro in an incident captured in a photo, but denied he had received a pair of diamond studded handcuffs from Shapiro.
"Did he give me diamond handcuffs? No. I had my own handcuffs. His girlfriend worked at a jewelry store and they gave me a deal on the diamonds," Shaq said.
Shaq and Heat star Dwyane Wade both came under fire after it was revealed Saturday that both used to hang out with the 41-year-old Shapiro. It was reported that Wade was a guest of Shapiro's boat on at least a couple of occasions as Shapiro targeted high-profile Miami sports stars and business leaders.
Shapiro, who allegedly bought courtside Heat season tickets with funds from the scheme, also made friends with Miami Beach Police chief Carlos Noriega and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Wade denied having any business relationship with Shapiro, and Shaq did the same.
"Did I do any business with him? Of course not," Shaq said. "Of course they want to put my name on it because they've seen a picture of me. But I take pictures with everybody."
Shapiro surrendered to authorities in Newark, N.J., last week to face securities fraud and money laundering charges related to his grocery diverting business.