A teenage boy with size 23 feet got calls from the shoe company, Puma and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal after hearing about his unique story. Under Armour, another famous shoe company also offered to make custom shoes for the teenager.
14-year-old Eric Kilburn, Jr. is a typical teenager who loves sports and good shoes. However, he is 6-foot-10 tall and his shoe size is 23. This gives him one huge problem: finding shoes that will fit him.
His mother, Rebecca Kilburn, has been struggling for years to find someone who can make affordable shoes for Eric. “At 14, he’s still growing,” Rebecca said.
“Most kids this big and tall at this age have an endocrine disorder and he does not. He has no health issues with exponential growth.”
Having large feet had caused Eric so much pain. He had to endure six excruciating ingrown nail surgeries, causing him to permanently lose two toenails.
He also got a sprained ankle while playing football, which could have been avoided if he had shoes with cleats.
As a part of his high school’s junior varsity football team, it was very important for him to wear comfortable shoes.
Sadly, Eric had been wearing only sneakers and did not have cleats or snow boots for winter for five years.
Every time his mother asked for his shoe size, all she would get was, “We don’t make that size,” along with disbelief and a burst of laughter.
“It’s a dream for him to have shoes, boots, and cleats,” Rebecca said. “That would be wonderful. It’s a weight on my heart as a mom not to find such a basic need.”
Out of desperation and love for her son, Rebecca made a plea online. Eric’s story was featured by the USA Today Network and the story quickly went viral. A lot of people mentioned reaching out to Shaquille O’Neal, knowing how big his heart is.
Luckily for Eric, he did not have to do it as O’Neal himself gave him a call that completely shocked him. “I was flabbergasted,” Eric said.
“My soul left my body for a moment, I was so shocked.” In his phone call, O’Neal said that he could relate to Eric because he had the same experience when he was a teenager.
The basketball star wears size 22 shoes and also found it hard to find comfortable ones that fit him before he became famous.
Shoe companies Puma and Under Armour offered to make custom-made shoes for Eric. Rob Cropp, Under Armour’s senior director of footwear development, came to see Eric and measured his feet. Puma plans to do the same in the next few days.
In the meantime, Reebok sent five pairs of size 22 shoes with a handwritten note. The size may be smaller but they have more toe room than the Nikes that Eric used to wear.
“Hoping these shoes we created for Shaq could be a fit and offer you relief,” the shoe company wrote.
According to Rebecca, they were so blown away by the support of the national, and maybe even the global community.
She is also very happy for her son. “I’ve never seen my son smile so big,” she said. “It’s tough to get a smile from a teen, but he is over the moon thrilled and blown away with options for shoes.”
O’Neal told them he would like to get Eric dress shoes from a man who makes them up to size 26. He also said to call him if they need anything. Eric was overwhelmed and grateful for all the help, especially from O’Neal, who recently sent him a text message.
“When him and I were texting about shoes, (O’Neal) said, ‘There’s much more coming, big man. Love you,’” Eric said. “This is the ultimate.”
Watch Eric’s interview on the video below: