Over a decade ago, when Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers won three consecutive championships, the team eliminated the Kings from the playoffs during each of its title runs. Now, putting a spin on an old cliche, after beating them, O'Neal is joining them. Sam Amick of USA Today reports that Shaq has bought a stake in the Kings, becoming a minority owner of the Sacramento franchise.
O'Neal joins a new ownership group in Sacramento that includes Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov, among others. Mastrov and O'Neal have a long-standing friendship, according to Amick, that dates back to when Shaq frequented Mastrov's 24-Hour Fitness gyms during his playing days in Los Angeles. Mastrov introduced O'Neal to Ranadive, who had been seeking a buzzworthy addition to the team's ownership group.
"I wanted to find somebody to add to the ownership group who truly represented 21st century basketball," Ranadive said. "[Someone] 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."
For his part, Shaq is interested in turning the franchise he once dubbed "the Queens" from a perennial lottery team into a club that players are "knocking on the door" to join.
"Hopefully Vivek, with Mr. Mastrov and myself and the team and organization can get it back to where it used to be," O'Neal said. "I'm telling you these new plans, oh my. You're going to be like, 'Sacramento is doing what?' That's what we want people to say."
Amick suggests that O'Neal intends to be actively involved with the Kings, starting today. Shaq is set to meet with players and coaches in Sacramento today before having dinner with "new protege" DeMarcus Cousins, according to the USA Today scribe. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee adds (via Twitter) that the Kings will introduce the former Laker as a member of the ownership group tomorrow.