Posted September 24, 2013

Report: Shaq joins Kings ownership group

Rob Mahoney, Sacramento Kings, Shaquille O'Neal
Long-time Kings tormenter Shaquille O'Neal will now be a fixture in Sacramento's front office. (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Long-time Kings tormenter Shaquille O’Neal will now be a fixture of the team’s front office. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Even in these lean, late-offseason months, the NBA news cycle finds ways to surprise. The latest bombshell: According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Shaquille O’Neal has purchased a minority stake in the Sacramento Kings — a team he openly mocked as a player and helped bar from an appearance in the NBA Finals in 2002. From Amick’s report:

His involvement will begin in earnest today, as O’Neal – who jokingly referred to himself as ‘Dr. O’Neal throughout a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports – plans to meet with Kings players and coaches in Sacramento before having dinner with franchise centerpiece and his new protégé, center DeMarcus Cousins.

“What interested me in this deal is the new vision, the new Kings, the new everything,” O’Neal, who so famously deemed the Kings the “Queens” at the start of the 2002-03 season, said. “I’ve always wanted to be part of something like this…It’s going to be great.”

According to SI.com’s Richard Deitsch, O’Neal’s ownership stake will not have any impact on his role with Turner Sports. O’Neal has been a fixture on TNT’s Inside the NBA since 2011, and though team ownership would represent some conflict of interests with his role as an “analyst” — a generous job description, in his case — he is expected to continue in the same capacity. Such a decision is not without precedent; both Turner and Disney (parent company of ESPN and ABC) employed Magic Johnson while he owned a minority share (and, for part of that time, acted as team vice president) of the Lakers from 1994 to 2010.

Yet as far as the Kings go, this is both an unexpected addition and still very much in-character for a Kings franchise looking to brand itself anew after a long-overdue change in ownership. Even though Vivek Ranadive, Mark Mastrov, and the rest of Sacramento’s ownership group have already begun to change the culture of the team through their personnel decisions and commendable efforts, the stink of the Maloofs — who acted as majority owners of the Kings from 1999 until earlier this year — remains. Last week, ESPN the Magazine branded the Kings as the worst franchise in professional sports, and then attempted to justify that ranking via press release. That such a pronouncement would come after a new, resilient ownership group fought an extended battle to keep the team in Sacramento was odd, to say the least, but represents the uphill battle the Kings still have in terms of cleansing their national reputation.

O’Neal doesn’t accomplish that on his own, but his reputation and charisma should be of use to a team in Sacramento’s position. Ranadive saw that value, and presented an opportunity for partnership (via Amick’s report):

“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, the former Golden State Warriors minority owner who heads the group that bought the team for a league-record valuation of $535 million, told USA TODAY Sports. “The most iconic person on the planet was Dr. O’Neal. So Mark Mastrov is good friends with Dr. O’Neal, and Dr. O’Neal and I spent a day at my house shooting hoops, hanging out with my kids, and just talking about how to create the franchise of the 21st century.

“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, and based on that we came to a conclusion that we could – what my (late) friend Steve Jobs likes to say – put a dent in the universe if Dr. O’Neal became my partner.”

While O’Neal parlayed an all-time-great career and an expressive public persona into world renown, this characterization — of Shaq as a business luminary — is certainly new. That isn’t to say that he’s incapable of bringing something unique to the table as minority owner; O’Neal’s caché could make for an interesting bridge between the Kings’ business-minded goals and basketball-centric endeavors. He has the celebrity capital to play a part on both ends of Sacramento’s operations, and with that brings the intangible, peripheral value that comes in having an NBA legend as part owner of the franchise. Similar arrangements (like, say, Michael Jordan’s previous stake in the Wizards and now in the Bobcats) haven’t always worked out for the best, but O’Neal could be a legitimate asset to the Kings so long as he’s used in a sensible, restrained manner. Too much of O’Neal’s influence could be overbearing. But just enough might legitimately move the needle for a franchise in a transitional state.

11 comments
muser
muser

Shaq is the most interesting and entertaining athlete in the history of sport. 

bambam824
bambam824

Good for Shaq, and for their nicknamed jerseys, he always had a special name for the "Kings"....

6marK6
6marK6

If this had happened last year I would have thought him and a group of investors was looking to move that team down to Orange County, Now I think he is just buying in because it is the cheapest team to buy into. The profit sharing of the NBA guarantees profit.

ashoreinhawaii
ashoreinhawaii

Great. Now TNT should do the right thing and say this disqualifies the clown from being on their NBA pregame/halftime/post game show.

Voiceover310
Voiceover310

@ashoreinhawaii Why would he be "disqualified" from being an analyst just because he owns a small percentage of a horrible franchise? 

Terry
Terry

@ashoreinhawaii 

Why is he a clown?

He has more money than you.

He is better educated than you.

He has a variety of interests outside of basketball.

If he's a clown, what does that make you?

frugal_ninja
frugal_ninja

@Terry @ashoreinhawaii Angry much? Shaq is was a beast of a player and a great person, but a horrible analyst with zero personality. Even CWebb is better than Shaq as a analyst.

ashoreinhawaii
ashoreinhawaii

@frugal_ninja @Terry @ashoreinhawaii An awesome player, but I hate seeing someone like Webber being passed over for a "personality." I am just tired of the "look-at-me" people being passed off as journalist for ratings sake. Nothing wrong with being a clown, I just don't like getting my news &/or sports from "personalities."
Sorry, didn't mean to sound insulting. Shaq has just gone the clown road to enhance his 2nd career. Nothing wrong with that. I just think that  sports journalism is ill served by personalities over journalists. More Al Michaels and less Chris Berman types. Sorry Terry, wasn't .
trying to start something,
Oh, and ouch! Shaq is better educated than me? When asked if he saw the Acropolis on a trip to Greece, he replied that he couldn't remember all the night clubs he had been to.