Shaquille O’Neal buys a stake in the Kings
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
Shaquille O’Neal, aka Dr. O’Neal if you ask him, is hoping to help cure the Sacramento Kings.
As the Kings continue their image makeover that was sparked by the late May sale of the team to Vivek Ranadive, they have made a big and bold addition by making O’Neal a minority owner. The TNT analyst once gleaned pleasure in deriding the Kings, who he owned in a very different way when his Lakers thrice knocked their rival out of the playoffs en route to titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Now, however, his joy will come from seeing one of the league’s worst-performing franchises turn things around.
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.”
The timing couldn’t be better for the Kings, who took exception to ESPN’s recent Franchise Rankings that pegged them last among 122 organizations in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. The analysis was based on the team’s woeful recent history and lackluster fan support, as the Kings not only missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons under the Maloof family that owned them previously but were on the edge of relocation to Anaheim and Seattle before Ranadive bought the team to keep it in town.
The new regime, which is headed by the Silicon Valley software tycoon in Ranadive and also includes 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, is determined to change perceptions and has even crafted a marketing campaign aimed at dispelling the unwelcome ESPN distinction.
“Hey ESPN…Nice Airball,” one of their promotional posters for a Nov. 15 home game that will be aired by ESPN reads. “New era. New swagger. The … [For more on Shaquille O'Neal buys a stake in the Sacramento Kings, click here.]