Years after relishing the role of Sacramento Kings nemesis and aggravating their fans with verbal jabs that included his infamously provocative "Queens" comments, former Los Angeles Laker Shaquille O'Neal was introduced Tuesday as a partner in the team's ownership group.
The four-time NBA champion -- three titles with the Lakers, one with the Miami Heat -- was introduced alongside Kings team executives Tuesdays and in front of a backdrop covered with the team's logo. He made a few remarks about how the deal came about before addressing the "Sacramento Queens" comments he made during a period when the Lakers knocked the Kings out of the playoffs in three consecutive years in the early 2000s.
"(Sacramento) was a tough place to play," O'Neal said. "I know today you're going to ask me about my 'Queens' comments. I was a marketing expert, and I just wanted to rile the people up.
"In my mind, if we could survive this and win here, we will win the championship. So, I wanted to bring everybody out. I understand their passion -- a lot of people took it personal. If I offended anyone, I apologize."
O'Neal, currently an NBA television analyst with TNT, will hold a minority stake in the team. New owner Vivek Ranadive introduced O'Neal -- seen, at right, dunking over the Kings' Vlade Divac in the 2002 Western Conference Finals -- at the Tuesday news conference. The 15-time NBA All-Star center discussed the plan and played "some hoops" at Ranadive's house.
"I've been well known for saying I like to surround myself with people way smarter than me," said Ranadive. "It's a special honor to say we now have Dr. Shaquille O'Neal -- one of the most iconic names on the planet."
The Kings have missed the playoffs for the past seven years. They won only 28 games last season and rumors of relocation have surrounded the team, but Ranadive's group has claimed it will invest in downtown Sacramento -- O'Neal referred to the city Tuesday as "Shaqramento" -- after purchasing the team from the Maloof family earlier this year.
The group has proposed plans to building a new $488 million arena.
O'Neal did not reveal his stake in the team. The partnership came about after O'Neal reached out to Kings co-owner and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov. The two partnered to build gyms in South Florida after O'Neal's move from LA to Miami.
"Make no mistake: Shaq is a shrewd businessman," Mastrov said.
Another former NBA player, Chris Mullin, joined the Kings earlier this year as a consultant.
O'Neal's appearance in Sacramento included a stop at Zocalo's Restaurant, where he dined with Kings officials and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, and a visit earlier in the day with Gov. Jerry Brown, according to KCRA-TV. Among the photos tweeted from the meetings -- a picture of O'Neal hoisting the governor's wife over his head.
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