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Shaquille O’Neal believes in innovative parenting. So when he was coaching his son’s basketball team and the kids were trailing in the fourth quarter, he knew he had come up with something quick to motivate them.

“So I told them, ‘Kids, if you win this game, I’ll take you to Hooters.’ They won by six points,” he said.

This story first appeared in the June 15, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

O’Neal was one of several dads who were singled out as fathers of the year at the 71st annual Father’s Day Luncheon at the New York Sheraton Hotel Thursday. He was joined by Oscar Feldenkreis of Perry Ellis, John Thain of CIT Group and Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Physician and single dad Christopher Valerian won the Ashok Sani “All-Star Dad” Award after an essay about him and his parenting skills won a contest sponsored by GQ magazine.

Feldenkreis — whose father and role model, George, traveled up from Miami for the event — attended with his wife of 30 years, Ellen, his three daughters and one of his two granddaughters. “With all these women in my life, I’m going to be working a long time,” he said. “There’s an old proverb: ‘A father carries a picture where his money used to be.’” On a more serious note, he encouraged everyone to “balance work and life,” a skill he learned from his father. “No matter how busy your schedule, always make time for what matters most: your family,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by the other honorees including Thain, who said despite the high-ranking professional positions he’s held in his career, his biggest accomplishment was his “four happy, healthy and motivated children.” Levy, who has spent countless hours fund-raising, singled out the group’s philanthropic side, noting that anyone who contributed to charity could be assured of an “unobstructed pathway to heaven.” In its seven-decade history, the Father’s Day Luncheon has donated $32 million to charity, including $4.2 million last year alone. This year’s charity recipient was Save the Children.

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