YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Will Shaq Put His Heart and Sole Into New Line?

June 11, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

The next time you're at the craps tables in Las Vegas, remember Shaquille O'Neal.

"Seven-come-11, Shaq Daddy needs new shoes."

As reported last week in Sports Illustrated, O'Neal's five-year, $15-million deal with Reebok expires at the end of this month.

O'Neal's agent, Leonard Armato, is negotiating with the company, but there is a very real possibility Reebok won't re-up.

In the not-so-distant past, when there was no business like shoe business for professional athletes, other companies would already have started lining up at Armato's door.

That's not happening now. With sneaker sales in decline, shoe companies can no longer justify lucrative contracts for athletes not named Michael Jordan or Ronaldo.

As a result, O'Neal may have to play next season barefoot.

"Are you kidding?" Armato asked when that possibility was mentioned to him Wednesday.

Of course, I was kidding.

What will happen, I'm pretty sure, is that you will walk into a Foot Locker store some day to buy sneakers and have to wait while this big kid tries on different pairs.

Without the $3 million a year from Reebok, he probably won't be able to afford Air Jordans.

Armato, not surprisingly, has a different plan to assure his client remains well-heeled.

"The great thing for Shaq is that Reebok has spent $50 million to $75 million over the last five years creating global brand awareness for Shaq," he said. "I think we can exploit that for his benefit."

Armato is reluctant to elaborate until negotiations are complete, but the general idea is that O'Neal will manufacture his own shoes.

Don't take that literally. If you've seen those documentaries about Asian sweatshops, you know a person has to be 14 or under to actually make athletic shoes.

But, according to Armato, O'Neal could produce his own signature brand, and, by becoming the middle man, sell them for a relatively reasonable price.

Armato wouldn't reveal names they are considering. "Air Shaqs" would be considered a rip-off.

A simple "Shaqs" works for me, like the old Chucks every kid used to covet before sneakers started coming with attachments other than shoestrings.


Coach Julie Rousseau, whose Sparks open their second season tonight in Utah, told Irv Kaze on KIEV last week that she prefers the nickname J.R. . . .

That's the name she went by to help her pass as a boy in the "no-girls-allowed" Little League of Tacoma Park, Md. . . .

WNBA President Val Ackerman told Kaze that 67% of the league's ticket buyers are women. . . .

No surprise there. The surprise is that, according to Ackerman, 37% of the NBA's ticket buyers are women. . . .

The Dodgers did a nice thing last week by promoting Alex Cora to the big league roster, enabling him to play against brother Joey when the team went to Seattle. . . .

But it also served as a reprimand for Wilton Guerrero, who probably would have been brought up if he hadn't angered Dodger management with his recent trade demands. . . .

American League President Gene Budig's eight-game suspensions of Terry Collins and Tony Muser remind that the New York league offices in all the major sports suddenly get tough when dealing with West Coast and small-market teams. . . .

You didn't see Joe Torre and Ray Miller sitting out any games after the Yankee-Oriole brawl. . . .

Hideo Nomo didn't win his debut for the Mets, but the team estimates he attracted more than 10,000 extra fans to Shea Stadium, where 30,336 bought tickets. . . .

Sunday's $400,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, originally the Premiere Handicap, is Hollywood Park's oldest stakes race. . . .

Bill Shoemaker won his first Premiere in 1951 on Special Touch. . . .

The race is more memorable because it was the only time in 41 starts that Citation finished out of the money. . . .

Colleague Ross Newhan, celebrating his 30th year with the The Times, was inducted last Sunday into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. . . .

On how he has survived three decades on the baseball beat, he says, "Durability, V.O. and an occasional bypass."


While wondering if it's politically incorrect to say the Scots' defense was stingy, I was thinking: Brazil was way ahead on style points even before the own goal, it doesn't get much better for couch potatoes than to see Jordan and Ronaldo play on the same day, my vote for AL manager of the year so far goes to the firm of Collins, Bowa, Lachemann & Maddon.

Los Angeles Times Articles