It takes LessThanUThink to attract an NBA legend

CW | Drew Hoover Shaquille O’Neal speaks at a press conference at UA Friday.

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal visited the University of Alabama Friday to direct a public service announcement video warning of the dangers of binge drinking.

O’Neal worked alongside students from the LessThanUThink campaign, a group designed to address the national issue of college-age binge drinking, as well as students from UA’s telecommunication and film department.

Students from last semester’s LTUT team launched a social media campaign to bring O’Neal to UA, using #GetShaq2UA on Twitter. In early November, the four-time NBA champion told the students he would visit the University in 2012.

“I’m big on Twitter, and somebody just kept tweeting me and kept tweeting me, and I looked at it every day,” he said. “I finally clicked on the link, and I said, ‘OK, I’ll meet with you guys.’”

O’Neal’s involvement with anti-binge drinking campaigns began last year when he teamed up with the Century Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for responsible drinking by those 21-and-up and is a key funder of the LTUT campaign.

His visit to the University was his second stop since agreeing to film PSAs at colleges nationwide.

“[Binge drinking is] not really a personal issue with me because I wasn’t a drinker at all in college, but you hear a lot of horrific stories,” he said. “Hopefully, after we shoot these campaigns and people see these, we can stop these horrific stories from happening.”

From Feb. 27 through March 9, LTUT held a contest for UA students to come up with their own PSA storyboard ideas. The top three submissions were then sent to O’Neal, who selected the idea by Crystal Deuel, an advertising major, as the winner.

“I was so excited when I was told I had been selected as the winner,” Deuel said in a press release. “Getting to meet Shaq today is an incredible experience and one that I’m sure I will never forget.”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange also attended the filming of the PSA.

“As the chief law enforcement officer of the state, the issue of binge drinking is particularly important to me,” Strange said. “I don’t want to see any of our young students injured … anything can happen when you’ve had [more] than you think.”

Strange said O’Neal’s influence as a role model would be significant to UA students and the campus itself, and that the video will spread upon its release in the Fall 2012 semester.

“A lot of children and a lot of kids say, ‘Hey, I’m drunk, but I’m not that drunk,’” O’Neal said. “But drunk and not drunk is a thin line. We want you to have fun, but we want you to be a little more responsible.”