Kings add Shaq to ownership group
Group bought team to prevent move to Seattle
The Sacramento Kings announced that they added Shaquille O'Neal to their ownership group and will introduce him during a press conference at the team's practice facility on Tuesday.
The ownership group is led by Silicon Valley software tycoon Vive Ranadive, which bought the team in May after an unsuccessful bid by a Seattle group that would have moved it to the Pacific Northwest. The new owners also include 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov.
O'Neal, a 15-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion, hopes to help return the Kings to their winning ways of a decade ago. O'Neal's Los Angeles Lakers knocked the Kings out of the playoffs in 2000, '01 and '02.
O'Neal, who has been working as an analyst for TNT since retiring in 2011, plans to meet with Kings players and coaches in Sacramento and have dinner with center DeMarcus Cousins.
"What interested me in this deal is the new vision, the new Kings, the new everything," O'Neal told USA Today. "I've always wanted to be part of something like this. ... It's going to be great."
The Kings have struggled in recent years, but O'Neal believes the team can be a winner again.
"Worst is at the bottom, which means you can't get no worser," he said. "There's no such thing as worser, which means we can only get better. And we will get better. Once that new arena comes, once that new downtown is up, once we have a conversation with the players and get everybody to step up, they'll be knocking on the door.
"Hopefully Vivek, with Mr. Mastrov and myself and the team and organization can get it back to where it used to be. 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."
O'Neal's ability to create a buzz appealed to Ranadive in bringing him in as a minority owner.
"I wanted to find somebody to add to the ownership group who truly represented 21st century basketball, 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," Ranadive told USA Today.
The Kings are looking to build a new $448 million arena in downtown Sacramento by 2016. However, an anti-arena group is trying to force a vote on the June ballot because of the $258 million public subsidy. Ranadive's agreement to buy the team includes having a new building in place by 2017 or else the NBA can facilitate new ownership and likely move the team. The Kings have played at Arco Arena since 1988.
"I've seen the (arena) plans," O'Neal said. "I don't know if they've talked to you about the plans, but woo-wee. That's all I can say: woo-wee. Oh, you know what? That's our new slogan: 'Sacramento: woo-wee.'
"It's going to be sort of like a mini L.A. Live, and it's going to be great for Sacramento, especially when they build the arena. ... If we put our heads together and hire the right people, I know that this arena is going to be the best arena in the country."
O'Neal is aware that he might have to work to win over Kings fans. He once referred to the team as the 'Sacramento Queens' when he starred for the Lakers. But he said he meant nothing personal by it; he just wanted to build up the rivalry between the two teams.
"They did have some great battles, and fans need to understand that those comments that I made and all that stuff, it was for them," he said. "I've always been an expert at marketing, so a Laker vs. Sacramento Kings, I wanted it to be the most watched game ever.
"But right now, (the Kings are) down, and they have new ownership, and we're going to bring it back up. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be a destination place that people want to see."