Shaquille O'Neal has teamed up with Be The Match to tell the nation about the critical need for more bone marrow donors. In the Do Something Big campaign, the basketball superstar will challenge Americans to “Be the one to save a life.” Three public service announcements will hit the airwaves and the Internet starting in March.

“There’s nothing bigger than life – not when someone you love is fighting to live,” O’Neal said. “That’s why I’m letting people know they have the power to save a life by joining the Be The Match Registry.”

For thousands of people battling leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases, a bone marrow transplant offers their best – or only – hope for a cure. Seventy percent of these patients don’t have a matching donor in their families, so they depend on the Be The Match Registry, the world’s largest and most diverse listing of potential marrow donors, to find that life-saving match.

“Shaq is an American icon who’s respected for his talents, on and off the court,” said Jeffrey W. Chell, M.D., chief executive officer of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), which operates the Be The Match Registry. “We’re honored that he is championing our mission and advocating for patients who are searching for a marrow match.”

O’Neal speaks solo in the first spot. In another, he is joined by both Coach Dale Brown – O’Neal’s longtime mentor and former coach at Louisiana State University (LSU) – and Coach Trent Johnson, LSU’s current basketball coach.

In the final spot, Johnson and O’Neal pair up to make a special appeal for African Americans, like themselves, to volunteer as donors. “We need more African Americans to step up,” Johnson says. “You can be the match.”

For example, 15-year-old Taylor John has severe sickle cell disease; her best hope for a cure is a marrow transplant. Like 70 percent of patients, Taylor does not have a matching donor in her family. She is most likely to match another African American.

Patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. That means adding more donors to the registry – especially from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds – increases the likelihood that all patients will find the donor they need.

“Together we can provide hope to patients of every age and race – that power is within everyone’s reach,” said O’Neal. “Take the first step at BeTheMatch.org.”

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