Teen Forced to Wear Crocs for an Entire Year Because He Can’t Find Shoes for His Size 23 Feet — Then Shaq Finds Out and Steps In
“I got you big man.”
Any parent knows that trying to keep their growing kids outfitted in properly fitting shoes is a never-ending battle. But for one mom, the struggle is one of record-breaking proportions. Literally.
At 14 years old Eric Kilburn Jr. is already nearly 7 feet tall and wearing size 23 shoes. His feet are so large he’s in the running to beat the current Guinness World Record for the largest feet of a teenager. A record held by German teen Lars Motza, 16, whose feet are a size 21.
In a world where the average shoe size for men is 10.5 and most shoe stores only sell shoes up to a size 14, finding shoes to fit Eric Jr. is nearly impossible.
A Mom’s Search For Shoes For Her Teenage Son
It’s a struggle he’s known since elementary school. In grade one he was already fitting into his mom’s size 12 shoes (tall genes run in the family. She’s 6’2″). By the time he reached 7th grade, he was wearing a size 17.
Eric Jr. spent two years straight wearing Crocs because that’s all he could find that would fit.
For the past year, the high school freshman has been squeezing his feet into a pair of size 22 Nike sneakers that a family friend found at an outlet store. But even with having them professionally stretched, they’re too small, causing painful blisters, calluses, and ingrown toenails.
For Eric Jr.’s mom, Rebecca Kilburn, it’s been a heartbreaking road. She has spent countless hours scrolling the internet and calling various shoe companies, including Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and more, only to be told, “We don’t make that size.”
A Mother’s Plea For Help Goes Viral & Shaq Responds
“I have spent hours crying feeling like I’ve failed my child because I’m not able to find what he needs,” Rebecca said.
Desperate to find shoes to fit her son and with all other avenues exhausted, she turned to the media for help.
After her story was published in a local Detroit newspaper, Hometown Life, word of the teen’s plight quickly spread. It was picked up by various news networks and shared across the country.
And that’s when basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal walked in. Standing 7’1″ tall and with size 22 feet, he’s been in Eric Jr.’s shoes.
After hearing about the teen’s struggles, Shaq hit the ground running. “I got you big man,” Shaq wrote on the Today’s Show Instagram post. He wasn’t kidding. He decided to, quite literally, step in to lend a helping hand.
Just days later, a package arrived on Eric Jr.’s doorstep. It contained 5 pairs of custom-made Reeboks. Shoes originally made for the GOAT himself.
Reebok also included a handwritten note, promising more to come.
Rebecca shared photos of an ecstatic Eric Jr. receiving the gift in a Facebook post, and captioned it: “Reebok and Shaquille (yes Shaq!!! SO cool!!) had reached out saying that they would like to help Eric be more comfortable while he is waiting for his custom shoes, and that they had a few pairs of 22s made for Shaq in their inventory that they would like to send to Eric.”
She contined, “The package just arrived and he is in shoe heaven!”
And then Shaq called.
“I was flabbergasted,” Eric Jr. said. “My soul left my body for a moment, I was so shocked.”
He empathized with the teen, sharing his own experiences of struggling to find footwear growing up. He also offered to help in any way he could, including getting him in touch with a designer who makes dress shoes up to size 26.
But he didn’t stop there. The next day, Eric Jr. received a text from Shaq. It read in part: “There’s much more coming big man. Love you.”
Shaq’s Gifts Extend to More Than Just Shoes For One Teenager
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. But his greatness extends far beyond the basketball court. Known for his generous philanthropic pursuits, the only thing bigger than the size of his feet is the size of his heart.
Over the years he’s been involved in various charitable endeavors, including partnering with Payless ShoeSource to donate shoes and backpacks and Samaritan’s Feet to launch the “Shaq’s Shoes” initiative, giving away thousands of shoes to kids in need.
In 2018, he bought 10 pairs of shoes for a struggling teen with size 18 feet.
And in 2019, he created his own foundation, the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, to support underserved youth.
“I’m into making people happy. Whenever I leave the house, I just try to do a good deed,” he said.
Shaq Isn’t the Only One Coming to the Teen’s Rescue
Eric Jr.’s story has struck a chord with people across the country. People have come out in droves, donating over 24K to a GoFundMe campaign organized by family friend, Kara Pattison.
Initially, Kara wanted to raise $1500 — just enough to cover the cost of one pair of custom shoes. But donors quickly kicked it into high gear, raising nearly 20x that amount in just a few days.
The Kilburns plan to open a bank account dedicated to Eric’s future footwear and some specialized sports equipment.
Additionally, Reebok, Under Armour, and Puma are all currently working on creating custom shoes and cleats for the teen.
CAT work boots also reached out with an offer to make Eric Jr. boots. As did small company, City Slicker Shoes and Pingree Detroit who have 3D printing plans in mind.
Paying it Forward
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, Rebecca can’t quite believe the “wild ride.”
In a follow-up Facebook post she wrote: “We are so blown away by the support from not only our community, but the (am I dreaming?) nation, maybe even global!”
She also couldn’t be more grateful for the kindness Shaq has shown to not only Eric Jr., but his younger brother Graesyn as well.
“The icing on the cake for my boys was Shaquille O’Neal reaching out and showing them so much love. So genuinely kind, and not looking for the spotlight- just wanting to reach out and connect with Eric Jr.”
And Rebecca’s paying it forward. She’s started a Facebook group called Big Shoe Network for other families in the same boat. It currently has over 2.8K members.
Thanks to Shaquille O’Neal and an entire community of supporters, Eric Jr. will no longer have to endure the pain of wearing too-small shoes.
But beyond that, there is hope for others who are in his shoes, turning one small step of kindness for one person into a giant leap for many.