Shaquille O'Neal Shares Why He Got COVID Vaccine, Says He Tries 'Not to Bash People' Who Choose Not to

"I just try to always set good examples," Shaquille O'Neal tells PEOPLE (the TV show!) host Kay Adams

Shaquille O'Neal is passionate about encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the NBA preseason begins, players do not have the mandate to get the shot according to current protocols.

"I try not to bash people. They have their thoughts and opinions," O'Neal, 49, told PEOPLE (the TV show!) host Kay Adams about his reaction to players who haven't been vaccinated. "I just try to always set good examples."

As for his decision to get vaccinated, the retired NBA player explains his mindset was "I will not get my mother sick. Will not" and put her at risk.

"I took it, nothing happened. Brother took it, he has underlying conditions. My other little sister took it, [has] underlying conditions. My mother took it," he shares. "It's my job as a man to protect, to provide and love for my family."

O'Neal admits he had "the same issues and concerns" others on the fence about the COVID vaccine had, but also expressed gratitude because other diseases and conditions don't have the benefit of a vaccine.

"HIV had been around a long time, there's no cure for that. Cancer has been around a long time with no cure for that," he says. "You come up with this in a year-and-a-half. I have all those concerns. However, I've seen people pass away from this… people close to me."

Shaquille O'Neal speaks during Pepsi Stronger Together and CTG Foundation ATL Press Conference on April 07, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia
Paras Griffin/Getty

For those who are against or hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, O'Neal says he tries to "tell them where my thought processes are" of why he got it. "We all have the right to make our own decision. We all have the right to say what we want. And sometimes when it doesn't align up how it should line up, people have a problem with that," the former athlete says. "I'm at a point in my life now where I understand all the issues."

O'Neal adds, "So I don't criticize guys. If that's your stand, that's your stand. I understand and I respect you, but not going bash you about it."

The NBA on TNT star recently admitted that he probably wouldn't want an unvaccinated teammate if he was still playing in the league.

"I wouldn't want to be part of a team that couldn't get together and couldn't win a championship because you did this," he told USA Today when asked about Kyrie Irving's refusal to reveal his vaccination status. "But if I was on the team and I was a guy that had a say on the team, I would say, 'You have to get him out of here; he's a distraction.' If everyone else on the team could do it, he should think about that."

Speaking with PEOPLE (the TV show!), O'Neal says he's "always been nice and courteous" and thinking of how he can help others whether it's speaking in support of the COVID vaccine or giving back to communities.

On Saturday, the father of six will be holding his The Shaquille O'Neal Foundation's first-ever charity gala "The Event" at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Imagine Dragons, Snoop Dogg and Andra Day will be headlining a special concert.

"If Snoop Dogg calls me up on stage, I wouldn't mind doing 'Nuthin But a "G" Thang,' " O'Neal jokes.

"We're raising money for kids in need. I teamed up with two organizations that are dear to my heart. Boys & Girls Club and Communities in School. We're going to focus on two cities, that's Las Vegas and Atlanta — places where I live," he says.

In addition, the Shaquille O'Neal Foundation is helping kids in underserved communities and revamping local basketball courts, The foundation is working with Icy Hot to donate $1 for each product sold up to $300,000 to create Comebaq Courts, which are basketball courts updated with refurbished and fresh blacktop, baskets and more. The new courts, which will be unveiled later this year, will be located in Las Vegas and Newark, New Jersey.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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