Maybe Shaquille O’Neal should have skipped basketball and gone directly into the business world. The retired basketball Hall of Famer definitely has the hang of turning small fortunes into large fortunes. His latest project with some former Disney executives likely nudges him a few notches closer to billionaire status.
Shaquille O’Neal dominated NBA competition
Before becoming a likable basketball commentator on television, Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominating big men in the history of the NBA. After three overpowering seasons at LSU, where he was twice a consensus All-American, O’Neal played 19 professional seasons for half a dozen teams.
His journey began with being selected No. 1 overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992. He averaged 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds to dominate the Rookie of the Year balloting but left after four seasons for an eight-year stint playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s where he won the first three of his four NBA championships alongside Kobe Bryant.
His final title came with the Miami Heat in 2006, and O’Neal completed his career with stints in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston. He retired with averages of 23.7 points and 10.7 rebounds for his career.
Shaq led the NBA in scoring twice and shooting percentage 10 times, including eight times in a span of nine years. He was the MVP of the regular season once and of the playoff finals three times.
O’Neal was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Success on and off the court have made him wealthy
Retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal’s career off the court has been equally impressive. The first of four rap music albums he recorded reached platinum status, he appeared in several movies, and he’s starred in two reality TV shows.
Along the way, he invested successfully in the stock market, started a mortgage company that aided homeowners facing foreclosure, and bought a minority stake in the Sacramento Kings in 2013. One of his investments in fast-food businesses led to O’Neal becoming the spokesman for the Papa John’s pizza chain. His other holdings include Auntie Anne’s pretzel shops and some nightclubs in Las Vegas.
However, basketball has remained in his blood long after his retirement. O’Neal signed on with TNT before the 2011-12 NBA season, joining Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson to provide commentary and analysis. Earlier this year, Turner Sports announced that a multi-year extension with O’Neal to stay with the network while continuing to branch out.
Besides remaining on TNT’s basketball coverage, O’Neal will appear on NBA TV and NBA.com. He will also join CNN’s live coverage of New Year’s Eve — his DJ Diesel persona is well-known — and take an as-yet-unspecified role with TNT’s All-Elite Wrestling franchise.
As a perk, O’Neal has been given executive producer status with Turner Sports’ Bleacher Report franchise and a development deal with WarnerMedia, which gives him the ability to expand beyond sports projects.
It will keep him in the running for the title of hardest-working retired athlete, impressive for a man who earned $292 million in salary alone from basketball and additional millions in shoe contracts and other endorsements. Celebrity Net Worth most recently pegged the value of his personal fortune and business empire at $400 million.
Shaquille O’Neal goes into business with ex-Disney executives
Don’t peg Shaquille O’Neal as some sort of figurehead who just collects checks by lending his name to other peoples’ projects. When O’Neal joined the Papa John’s board of directors in March 2019 during the company’s public-relations problems, he negotiated a seven-figure annual salary as their brand ambassador, according to the Courier Journal in Louisville. He also took partial ownership of nine Atlanta-area stores at a favorable price.
His latest deal has O’Neal teaming up with former Walt Disney executives and Martin Luther King III in a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). According to the Wall Street Journal, Forest Road Acquisition Corp. intends to raise $250 million and invest it in online content companies and streaming services. One of its top officers is Thomas Staggs, the chief operating officer at Disney when he left in 2016.
Forest Road Acquisition lists O’Neal as a strategic advisor. While it’s likely that he has invested some of his own money in the project, O’Neal brings more than just his checkbook to the deal. With the contract extension he just signed, O’Neal is in a position to bargain with Turner Sports if Forest Road Acquisition finds an investment that interests both parties.