I contemplated whether or not to offer my two cents on Shaquille’s Announcement given the amount of coverage STR and other media already provided. I was pinged by family, friends and random news sources alerting me of the announcement which I need to take a moment to qualify. When people who don’t typically follow the Kings and traditional news sources in other markets (I live in Orange County) are announcing to you about Shaq investing in the Sacramento Kings, it takes you by surprise. It tells me people who could not care less about the Sacramento Kings or Sports in general know and are aware of Shaq and what he says and does. He is a personality with major relevance. He is the arguably most well known former athletes on the planet. After the break I hope to delve into this polarizing topic to many of us on Sactown Royalty.
Though I was barraged by announcements, I first caught wind of this from our agile and always on point media outlet Sactown Royalty. At some point in perhaps another thread we need to discuss how to effectively campaign our nomination and try to win the 2014 Bloggies Award. The best sports fans need to be recognized for the best sports blog. Before I could even get an opportunity to share my perspective the folks on STR quickly weighed in. Many deemed this development to be a positive either because it will strategically improve our franchise’s visibility within the NBA and via Social Media or believe tactically the proximity to Demarcus Cousins will improve his production on the floor to potentially an all-star level and his overall behavior to at least normal.
Others however have characterized Shaq’s arrival apathetically or even negatively. It has been purported by a few on STR that Shaquille O’Neal--the famous King Hater—is merely a media whore and this publicity stint serves no long term value to the organization. Furthermore there is a concern Shaq will not be a favorable nor effective mentor to DMC citing Shaq’s own immaturity, lack of work ethic, and inability to reach his ceiling on the court. To be completely blunt, Shaq’s myriad verbal blunders, have fallen mostly in the disparaging, egregious, and egotistical categories. Because of these truths and the residue that still remains in many Kings Fan’s memory banks tied to the trash talking by Shaq during the best series ever in the NBA, the Western Conference Finals 2002, I decided that after the initial visceral reactions had subsided to explore more deeply why our Front Office approached and added Shaq to Vivek’s ownership group.
I must first establish a Shaq Disclaimer that should resonate with most of us. Did he score, rebound, block and win more games and lead his team to more championships than any other NBA Center ever? No. Did he perform to the best of his abilities every time he touched the ball? He had raw physical skills that were unparalleled but did not fully apply himself throughout his career. Did he battle weight, injuries and laziness at points during his playing career. Yes. Was he a clown, a boob, an ass and a hypocrite? Absolutely. Did his unabashed verbal jabs thrown around directly and in the media make it difficult and sometimes impossible for teammates, coaches, front office, basketball officials and city officials along the way? You better believe it. Has he embarrassed himself from a fashion and entertainment perspective? Like totally!! Is he the second coming of Christ? I hope not. There is no disputing that Shaq's career in the NBA was rife with a mixed bag of drama.
Shaq and his bag of personality justifiably raises the eyebrows of many here on STR who remain unconvinced or skeptical that Shaq brings something or better yet the right mix to this franchise in need of a cultural rebirth. So why did Vivek and Co. do this? There is no simple answer but many have offered some guesses and I hope to illuminate those below after recapping Shaq’s accomplishments on and off the court.
Basketball Pedigree – Vivek and the rest of the ownership, check my math, includes one ring: Mitch Richmond, whose ring should have an asterisk on it as his sole contribution was to dribble out the clock in game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals. Shaq’s four rings and Hall of Fame career brings instant credibility in a way that none of the owners can—no offense to Run *MC. By the way…paging Tim Hardaway, where are you? In essence, it is good to have someone at the owners' table who can speak to what is involved and how to successfully compete at an NBA playoff level which Shaq did 17 out 19 seasons for six NBA teams including being the MVP of the NBA Finals 3 times. Here are some statistical highlights of his career:
• 19 S | 1207 GP | 34.7 MPG | 58.2% FG | 10.9 RPG | 2.5 APG | 2.3 BPG | 23.7 PPG
• 4× NBA champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)
• 3× NBA Finals MVP (2000–2002)
• NBA Most Valuable Player (2000)
• 15× NBA All-Star (1993–1998, 2000–2007, 2009)
• 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2000, 2004, 2009)
• 2× NBA scoring champion (1995, 2000)
• 8× All-NBA First Team (1998, 2000–2006)
• 2× All-NBA Second Team (1995, 1999)
• 4× All-NBA Third Team (1994, 1996–1997, 2009)
• 3× All-Defensive Second Team (2000–2001, 2003)
• NBA Rookie of the Year (1993)
• NBA All-Rookie First Team (1993)
• Olympic Gold Medalist (1996)
• FIBA World Championship MVP (1994)
• AP College Player of the Year (1992)
• UPI College Player of the Year (1992)
• Adolph Rupp Trophy (1992)
• 2× Consensus first team All-American (1991–1992)
• 2× SEC Player of the Year (1991–1992)
Branding – The new Kings have a vision to make their Brand a household name, globally. While the owners are well respected in their own business circles they are not globally recognizable brands. How many other people on the planet outside of the analytical and tech world even knew who Vivek was or even pronounce his last name? The circle of people that understand the relationship between basketball and branding on a global level is very small. Topping that list you could say probably Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are in that circle—but they are all a little busy these days. Who knows more first hand than Shaq? He is arguably more globally recognizable than 24 Hour Fitness, Tibco, Qualcomm, combined. He has done commercials with the top Global Brands including Pepsi, Reebok, & Nestle. Highlights include:
• Fourth most influential athlete by Forbes Magazine
• Highest ranked NBA athlete on Nielsen’s State of the Media: Year in Sports 2010
• Highest ranked NBA athlete on Business Week’s Power Sports 100
• HWA (Harry Walker Agency – Executive Speaker Services) Speaker on Creating Selling and Growing the Ultimate Brand. Clients include:
o Carnival Cruise Lines
• Top 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine
• 1st Celebrity on Twitter; currently 7.6M followers (NBA only has 8M followers; Shaq is the highest former athlete)
• Advisory Board of Tout (Video Cousin of Twitter)
• Spokesperson for several national brands
• Early Investor in Vitaminwater
• Collaborated with 24 Hour Fitness Founder Mark Mastrov to develop and buildout gyms across multiple Florida Markets
• Released 6 Music Albums including certified platinum Shaq Diesel
• Numerous TV credits including currently a NBA Analyst on TNT
• Multiple Film Credits including Grown Ups 2, Blue Chips and Kazaam
• Featured in 14 Video Games including Delta Force: Black Hawk Down & UFC Undisputed 2010
• Became a Reserve Officer in both LA and Miami as well as an honorary US Marshall
• Repeated Personality/contestant on WWE
• Been training in MMA since 2000 and sought to fight Choi-Hong Man while be interviewed at UFC 118 2010
Education – Shaq left LSU for the NBA after 3 seasons but went back and eventually earned his BA in General Studies in 2000. In 2005 he earned his MBA online at the University of Phoenix. In 2012 he earned his Doctorate in Education from Barry University—a tier two private Catholic College. What is notable is twofold. First, Shaq had the discipline and drive while being a fulltime celebrity, NBA All-Star, national pitchman, reserve officer and part time dad to backfill his time with school work. His laziness notwithstanding this might provide a partial explanation on why Shaq came into most of his training camps overweight and out of shape. While Kobe and others locked themselves in a weight room and a gym all off-season, Shaq was reading and writing. Amidst his other interests and notably school and public service, he wasn’t singularly focused on becoming an even more dominant Center in the league which Phil Jackson lamented Shaq "could and should have been the MVP for 10 consecutive seasons."
Although effort and some chronicled injuries to his arthritic toe among other physical ailments may have hindered his productivity on the court, Shaq was productive on laying the ground work on his life after playing basketball. Shaq did not just stop at his initial degree, he went back twice more, even taking courses in film with future plans to get his law degree. Those are major commitments. I do not know about most of you, I have the desire for an advanced degree, but after work, being a dad, blogging, beer and Breaking Bad, (I miss you already Walt) my free time just is not what it used to be. And I have nobody calling up my phone asking me to do a one day commercial for $300K distracting me either. Second and more importantly is his Doctoral work’s premise: "The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles". He actually has studied a topic on how to channel humor and aggression constructively to become a leader." Most familiar with HWA know that Speakers include the likes of Oprah and former President Clinton, serious orators not goofballs
losing spending their family fortune but real leaders that are paid to speak to real company executives about leadership and building a global brand. The media may not hype this but it is legit. Riddle me this Batman, who do we know that needs to hear that life lesson. Boogie on down here Demarcus.
Mentoring Demarcus Cousins – Now I have already gone on record that my short list of mentors for DMC would have started with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his rings, sky hook and composure, Chris Webber for his personality and passing, Vlade Divac for his leadership and attitude, etc., but for whatever reason those guys are not here. Despite Shaq’s flaws and he has enough to fill Sleep Train Arena, he is here, wants to be here, and he has a unique background as a person and as a player that can and should hold Demarcus’ attention. No not on perfecting a drop step or how to create your own shot on the low block, but on how to channel DMC’s humor and his aggression constructively to become a better leader. Given Vivek’s comments that DMC is excited to engage Shaq, I hope the STR can give this a chance to take flight before ruling anything out.
Look, I cannot ignore the fact that Shaq has said some down right idiotic things over the years. His racially insensitive comments about Chinese People in reference to Yao Ming was worse than calling Vlade a she. Shaq has no problem saying what is on his mind and that is sometimes not the best thing. He turned Confederate on Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Kobe Bryant and even Dwayne Wade. But let's be honest, all of these guys have huge egos and polarizing personalities. People with Egos are going to butt heads. Many successful athletes and business men have big personalities with egos yet live very successful lives. Shaq has been no different. Yes its ironic that a spokesperson typically says the right things most of the time and Shaq is going to say what is on his mind, but he has obviously figured out a way to express himself without jeopardizing his livelihood. This is the critical conversation Shaq will have with Demarcus. Demarcus will likely listen like he did with his high school coach Otis Hughley and with Kentucky Coach John Calipari whom Demarcus respected. Shaq commands respect and has what Demarcus wants, respect from others and success. Shaq can give Demarcus valuable guidance on how to achieve success on the court by earning the respect of your teammates, coaches, fans and officials. Demarcus will relate with Shaq's story as well. A big kid growing up with lots of siblings with a mom trying to keep it all together and a biological father that was not there. He will appreciate that Shaq wrote the book on how to deal with another team's game plan to get under his skin and hack him because they could not defend him. Having worked as a basketball official I have heard first hand how NBA officials pre-gamed how they were going to handle the Hack-a-Shaq game plan. Many felt Shaq was the hardest guy to officiate because he was going to foul and be fouled more than any other player in the league day in and day out.
Say what you will about Shaq but if you replay videos of him in the post you will see how well he kept his cool despite years of physical abuse by opposing players. There is real potential Shaq's education and experience, especially as an executive speaker on the topic, provides a unique perspective that can reach Demarcus and have a positive effect. We will see soon enough what impact this plus the new coach, front office and new roster does for Demarcus' behavior going forward but the initial response seems encouraging as reported by Sam Amick in an interview with Vivek. "DeMarcus is so excited at just the thought that (Shaq) is going to be talking to him, going to be spending time with him, going to be watching him, on the practice court, that he just can't contain himself," Ranadive said. "When he first heard that (Shaq) was looking at becoming an investor in the Kings, he just texted me and said, 'Can I please, please reach out to (Shaq)?'".
While it would be easy to conclude based on the public reputation of Shaq and the behavioral history of Demarcus that this will not work out well but a deeper look into this leave hope that this could be jazz music in the making. Vivek may have someone who can give both building his brand and building Boogie a two second advantage!