Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest to have ever been in the NBA, but we know him as much more than a basketball player. He’s starred in movies (never forget), released albums (again, don’t forget), and most recently he’s featured on NBA on TNT. He’ll reprise his role alongside Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson Jr. in the pre-, post-, and halftime shows this season. We caught up with Shaq earlier this week in New York City at the premiere party for the upcoming video game NBA 2K16, to find out why he’d rather be on the cover of Fruity Pebbles than on the Wheaties box, why (he says) he retired too early-and, given his one big business regret, we made him choose between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
So you’ve been tweeting about how excited you are for NBA 2K16, and you even tried getting a Shaq Fu sequel off the ground. Do you still find time to play video games?
Not as much as I used to. Now I’m working a lot, I have six kids. I only play the top games. So NBA 2K16, of course, Grand Theft Auto. FIFA, a lot of games with [gestures holding a rifle] Call of Duty! Yeah! Not a lot. Less than 10.
You recently talked about how you passed up investing in Starbucks. Are there any other investment opportunities you wish you didn’t pass on, or even got a chance to invest in?
I was lucky. I was one of the original investors in Google. I was with Vitaminwater when they got bought out by Coke. Business-wise, I’ve had way more ups than downs. I’m very protective of my brand. At the time, I was like, “Coffee. I don’t know.” And it was a bad decision on my part. But you always have to go with your gut. When I do business, it has nothing to do with money. You can’t come to me and say, “I’ll offer you this and I’ll offer you that.” Well, what are we talking about here? If I don’t like it, I won’t do it. I always tell people the Wheaties story. After my first championship, Wheaties said, “We’ll put you on the cover.” And I said, “I never ate Wheaties. Call Frosted Flakes or call Fruity Pebbles.” Championship two, Wheaties comes again. I never ate Wheaties, I don’t know what it tastes like. Last year, I was on the cover of two million Fruity Pebbles-that’s how long I was trying to get on Frosted Flakes or Fruity Pebbles. Let’s just say if Lipton would’ve come to me, I would’ve jumped all over that deal. But Starbucks is something you can laugh at. It’s a funny story. People get a kick out of it.
You told Kobe not to retire before he’s ready. Do you think you retired too early?
Did I retire too early? Yes. I had a two-year deal with Boston. I was going to play that year out. I was going to do a tour, have an area show. I went out a year too early and I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. When you have a timetable, you should stick to the timetable. I was supposed to retire in two years so I had another year to think about what I want to do. So I came up short and TNT offered me a job, and of course I took it-it kept me around basketball. But I retired a year too early.
From a personal standpoint, I wanted to pass up Wilt Chamberlain. I don’t like when people say there’s two dominant players. I wanted to pass him up so I could arrogantly say, “I’m the most dominant guy in the world. Nobody else. Don’t even mention him.” In sports, people always go to their championship laurels. Wilt only has one, and I had four at the time. If I had passed him up in points, I would’ve gone on TV and said, “I’m the most dominant big man ever.” But he’s still 1,500 to 2,000 points ahead of me.
I have a few either-or questions: Are you playing on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?
NCAA Basketball or NBA?
Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts?
I gotta go with that Boston Kreme. Dunkin’ Donuts.
Game of Thrones or True Detective?
Android or iPhone?