He credits his mother, Lucille, for keeping him well fed as he filled out his 7′1″ frame. Mac and cheese, fried chicken, barbecued chicken and banana pudding were in regular rotation. So was spinach, he claims, “because I thought I was Popeye, and it was the only vegetable I’d eat.” Even on a lean budget, his mom had a knack for stretching inexpensive ingredients like Frosted Flakes — one of his favorite foods to this day that turns up in the milkshakes of his restaurant chain, Big Chicken, and in the recipes for chocolate chip cookies and French toast smothered in cinnamon-whiskey maple syrup in his new cookbook.

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In the introduction to “Shaq’s Family Style: Championship Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends” (Ten Speed, $29.99), the 15-time admit NBA All-Stars that when it comes to cooking, he came late to the game. But having spent much of 2020 at home with his family in the Atlanta area, he’s had time to get up to speed — with help from his executive chef partners Matthew Silverson and Matthew Piekarski, who shared their culinary expertise for his book.