SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) – Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal will be joining the Sacramento Kings ownership group.
Team majority owner Vivek Ranadivé will hold a press conference Tuesday in Sacramento to introduce the four-time NBA champ as a member of the group.
In June, the all-star center said he’s going to help tutor DeMarcus Cousins.
“I’m going to make DeMarcus Cousins the best big man in the game,” said O’Neal.
At that time, O’Neal also praised plans for the downtown arena.
During the height of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal fueled the rivalry with the Kings with his play on the court and his personality off of it.
O’Neal handed Sacramento its biggest blow by rallying the Lakers from a 3-2 deficit to win the 2002 Western Conference finals, which is still a sore spot for Kings fans. The 7-foot-1 center even labeled the franchise the “Sacramento Queens” and accused fan favorite Vlade Divac — whom he referred to as “she” at one point during the series — of flopping.
O’Neal was a 15-time All-Star and the 2000 NBA MVP. He played for the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring after the 2010-11 season.
O’Neal, now 41, has worked as an analyst for TNT the last two seasons.
O’Neal is the latest high-profile former player to join the Kings this summer after the franchise nearly moved to Seattle. Hall of Famer Chris Mullin was hired as a consultant to Ranadive – who bought the franchise from the Maloof family in May – and Mitch Richmond is part of the ownership group.
The group includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who is friends with O’Neal. The two partnered in the past to build several gyms, especially in South Florida during O’Neal’s time with the Heat.
The Kings’ newest minority owner says he was attracted to the team by Mastrov and Ranadive. O’neal was a Mastrov business partner with 24 Hour Fitness years ago.
He’s seen the arena plans and is convinced the new building will be state-of-the-art, and a “mini-LA.”
“We need to get it back to that level where the arena is loud where there’s cowbells, and make it a tough place to play,” O’Neal said.
It’s been rumored he might join the team in some capacity. Mayor Kevin Johnson revealed he talked to O’Neal when the pair attended the Kentucky Derby months ago.
“We had some preliminary conversations, and that goes back to May. I knew he wanted to be in an ownership position,” said Johnson.
The former Laker only said he put up “a lot” of money to get in on the ownership but wouldn’t give specifics.
As for the infamous Sacramento queens comment, O’Neal said it was just marketing and nothing personal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.