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Shaq attacks fat

Think Shaquille O’Neal’s great love is hoops?

Think again.

“I love kids, even more than basketball,” Mr. O’Neal says in the first episode of his new ABC show, “Shaq’s Big Challenge,” in which the superstar helps motivate six Florida middle school students to lead healthier lives.

The show, premiering at 9 tonight, tackles the issue of childhood obesity.

“Kids just need to be active,” Mr. O’Neal told the New York Daily News. “I don’t want kids to go in the gym and [do] a heptathlon and do 20 different sports. Just be active.

“We live in a society now where it’s easy to eat a bag of chips and watch TV, easy to eat a bag of chips and play with your PlayStation,” he said. “It’s easy to eat a bag of donuts and just sit down and not do anything.”

To combat complacency among his six young participants, Mr. O’Neal enlisted a “dream team” of experts, including his own physician and trainer, Dr. Carlon “Doc” Colker; personal trainer Tarik Tyler; nutritionist Joy Bauer, and childhood obesity expert Dr. William Muinos.

“The most emotional part [of the show] is when we took the kids to Dr. Muinos … and he explained what can happen to them,” Mr. O’Neal said.

“He showed them pictures of other obese children who became obese adults. That was part of my motivation, with a little bit of reality scare tactic, and I think it worked, because at the end of the show, you’re going to see fabulous results.”

Ultimately, Mr. O’Neal and his “team” hope to help spur a health revolution for the youngsters, their community and for viewers.

“We have a meeting with the governor in about a week or so,” he said. “Basically, I’m going to be pushing trying to get the mandatory P.E. back, and trying to get better school lunches.”

As for the show’s six youngsters, Mr. O’Neal says they’re doing fine. If more care is needed, “they have my e-mail address,” he said.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports