Shaquille O’Neal simply has a knack for success. On the basketball court, he dominated the paint and earned a spot as one of the NBA’s all-time greats. In retirement, he’s struck it rich with some world-class investments. There’s one deal, however, that Shaq wishes he never passed up.
Believe it or not, O’Neal once had a chance to strike a deal with Starbucks. The move could have made him millions, but he passed up due to a naive belief that “black people don’t drink coffee.”
Shaquille O’Neal dominated, both on and off the court
It goes without saying that Shaquille O’Neal is literally a larger than life figure. The big man simply seems to dominate the competition in any field.
On the basketball court, Shaq burst onto the scene in high school, leading his team to 68 wins and one loss over two seasons. He then took his talent to LSU, where he earned NCAA Player of the Year honors. The Orlando Magic selected Shaq with the first overall pick of the 1992 NBA draft; while he eventually left Orlando, he turned into one of the most dominant big men the league has ever seen. In 19 professional seasons, he averaged 23.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, won four championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, and one league MVP.
O’Neal’s success wasn’t limited to the hardwood, though. While he earned more than $286 million in the NBA, most of that money went into investments; he now holds a stake in companies like Google, Lyft, Ring, and VitaminWater.
Thanks to those investments, his media work, and his endorsement deals, O’Neal is now worth an estimated $400 million. His bank account could be even larger, though, if not for one business mistake.
Shaquille O’Neal missed out on millions with Starbucks
While getting in on the ground floor of Google is nothing to sneeze at, Shaquille O’Neal missed a chance to work with another massive company. The big man could have struck a deal with Starbucks, but decided against the partnership.
“So my agent calls me up and he says ‘Howard Schultz wants to do business with you,” O’Neal explained to Graham Bensinger. “And I’m like coffee? Because growing up, in my household, I’d never seen a black person drink coffee. So it was my thought process that black people didn’t drink coffee.”
Schultz was apparently interested in partnering up with O’Neal to open Starbucks stores in African-American communities, but there was a problem. The big man only invests in products that he personally believes in.
“So, I took the great Howard Schutz in his face,” he continued, “and said, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir. I don’t think it’s going to work.”
Starbucks eventually found their man in Magic Johnson
While Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t sure if Starbucks’ expansion into minority communities would work, the coffee company didn’t think twice. In 1998, they ultimately partnered up with Magic Johnson to create Urban Coffee Opportunities. During the partnership, they opened more than 100 locations in cities around the United States.
Magic eventually cashed out in 2012 selling his 50 percent stake back to Starbucks. While the exact terms of the deal weren’t revealed—he reportedly earned $100 million in total from selling both his franchises and his share of the Los Angeles Lakers—it’s safe to assume he made a nice chunk of change.
No matter how successful you are, everyone has an Achillies Heel. On the court, Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t hit free throws; in the world of business, his naively kept him from joining forces with Starbucks.