Shaquille O'Neal made a bigger than life gesture for a Louisiana family that tragically lost a child in a car accident -- covering the balance of his burial service.
Phil Conrad -- a retired chief deputy officer from the Lafayette City Marshal's Office -- tells TMZ Sports ... the ex-NBA big man recently shelled out a few thousand bucks to help pay for the remaining cost of a child's funeral, this after his family came up just a little short.
Here's what happened ... a car with an adult driver and four minors ran a stop sign, then crashed into a ditch and ultimately into a tree a couple weeks ago out in nearby Breaux Bridge, LA. The crash claimed the lives of two of the kids in the back seat, 12-year-old Trayvon Alexander and 11-year-old Keshon Batiste. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Conrad tells us Trayvon's family had insurance covering his burial in full, but young Keshon did not ... leaving his loved ones to start a GoFundMe. They still need around $4,000 to reach their goal. We're told Shaq -- who went to college in Louisiana -- caught wind of the story and hit up Phil to get downloaded on the situation.
Once Shaq heard what was needed to help Keshon's relatives, Conrad says he instantly acted ... wiring him the leftover balance immediately, and Conrad then delivered the cash to the Kinchen Funeral Home. We're told the two boys were laid to rest Saturday.
There's more ... we're told Shaq has done stuff exactly like this several times in the past, but he's kept it low key. Stand up guy.