Sep 23, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT
Few players ever tormented the Kings like Shaquille O’Neal. He was the face of the Lakers in 2002 when the Kings had the second-best team in the NBA but just could not get past Shaq and Los Angeles. For years as that rivalry built, Shaq enjoyed taking some shots at Sacramento.
Now, he owns a piece of the team.
After meetings with new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and others in the organization, Shaq — the future Hall of Fame player and current TNT analyst — has purchased a minority interest in the team, something first reported Sam Amick at the USA Today and later confirmed by the team.
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 new protégé DeMarcus Cousins.
“What interested me in this deal is the new vision, the new Kings, the new everything,” said O’Neal, who so famously deemed the Kings the “Queens” at the start of the 2002-03 season. “I’ve always wanted to be part of something like this. … It’s going to be great.”
Welcome to the world of business, where the old allegiances of fans get whitewashed in money. And Shaq certainly has the money.
And the Kings will take him and his dollars, especially if he can help get through to Cousins.
As we told you, Sacramento’s fans and new ownership took exception to ESPN the Magazine ranking them the worst franchise in all of sports. It’s hard to argue that under the Maloofs they may well have been the worst run franchise.
Now Sacramento wants credit for the change in ownership and focus — moves like bringing in O’Neal as an owner. It’s what Aaron Bruski suggested in his PBT piece about the Kings reaction to ESPN.
My thought: Prove it. So far you’ve made nice moves, you brought in a respected GM and new coach, you’ve continued to move forward on your new arena. Those are good baby steps, the first ones you need to take. But respectability is earned with smart moves made over a length of time and the Kings have yet to do that. They might well get there, I hope they do, but the kind of respect they want is earned not given. So earn it first.
Getting Shaq on board, that’s another nice small step in the right direction.