Shaquille O'Neal, shown during his Lakers jersey retirement ceremony,… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Shaquille O'Neal already seemed about as involved in the NBA as one could get -- a four-time champion, a future Hall of Famer and currently an analyst on TNT.
But now he's added another role -- team owner.
The former Lakers center has acquired a minority stake in the Sacramento Kings under new owner Vivek Ranadive, the team announced Monday. O'Neal will be formally introduced in Sacramento at a news conference on Tuesday.
"What interested me in this deal is the new vision, the new Kings, the new everything," O'Neal told USA Today. "I've always wanted to be part of something like this. ... It's going to be great."
"I wanted to find somebody to add to the ownership group who truly represented 21st century basketball, who represented my vision of NBA 3.0, which is having an understanding of technology, wanting to build a global brand and being global in their thinking, and really being committed to having an impact in the community," Ranadive told USA Today Sports of O'Neal, who earned his doctorate in education from Barry University in 2012. "The most iconic person on the planet was Dr. O'Neal."
Ranadive said he had O'Neal over to his house, where they hung out with his kids, played some basketball and did a lot of talking.
"We talked about what the forces were that were shaping the 21st century, we talked about technology, we talked about new companies that we were looking at," Ranadive said. "And based on that we came to a conclusion that we could ... put a dent in the universe if Dr. O'Neal became my partner."
Shaq is a key reason the Kings don't have any NBA titles to show for their glory years of the early 2000s, as he and the Lakers knocked them out of the playoffs three straight years en route to a trio of championships of their own.
During that period, O'Neal famously referred to his new team as the "Sacramento Queens." Even now, he offers no apologies for such comments.
"Fans need to understand that those comments that I made and all that stuff, it was for them," he said. "I've always been an expert at marketing, so a Laker vs. Sacramento Kings, I wanted it to be the most watched game ever."
The Kings have missed the playoffs for seven straight years. They won just 28 games last season and were on the verge of being relocated to Anaheim or Seattle before Ranadive's group purchased the team from the Maloof family this year.
"Worst is at the bottom, which means you can't get no worser," O'Neal said. "There's no such thing as worser, which means we can only get better. And we will get better. Once that new arena comes, once that new downtown is up, once we have a conversation with the players and get everybody to step up, they'll be knocking on the door.
"Hopefully Vivek, with [fellow owner Mark Mastrov] and myself and the team and organization can get it back to where it used to be," O'Neal said. "I'm telling you these new plans, oh my. You're going to be like, 'Sacramento is doing what?' That's what we want people to say."
Shaq also hopes the team and its yet-to-be-built $488-million arena will make people say something else -- woo-wee!
"I've seen the plans," O'Neal said. "I don't know if they've talked to you about the plans, but woo-wee. That's all I can say: woo-wee. Oh, you know what? That's our new slogan: 'Sacramento: woo-wee.'"
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