During the Lakers 2002 championship campaign, they had to go through the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Finals before they were able to finish off their three-peat with a sweep over the New Jersey Nets. That WCF against the Kings would prove to be the Lakers toughest test as the Kings would take the Lakers to an epic seven game series that saw Robert Horry’s most famous shot and Shaquille O’Neal calling the team the “Queens.”
Lots has changed since then, the Lakers would go on to win two more titles while the Kings have been a lottery team for seven of the 11 years. The vitriol between the two teams has cooled down tremendously since the series, and even the the players in the series don’t seem to hate the other team quite as much as they did over a decade ago. This hasn’t been anymore evident than in the recent news that O’Neal has become a minority owner of the team, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
“Dr. O’Neal,” if you ask him — is hoping to help cure the Sacramento Kings.
As the Kings continue their image makeover that was sparked by the late May sale of the team to Vivek Ranadive, they have made a big and bold move by adding O’Neal as a minority owner.
The news of Shaq becoming a minority of one of his biggest rivals as a player came as a shock to many, but what isn’t new is the fact that the Kings are in the midst of a transitional period. The Maloofs, the former Kings owners, had threatened to move the franchise for the past seven years, to both Anaheim and Seattle, but ended up being forced to sale the team to the new ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov, and O’Neal is very excited to be a part of it all.
“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.”
Vivek invited Shaq to the ownership group after discussions about O’Neal becoming a consultant to help mold DeMarcus Cousins — a young big man who has an abundance of talent, but hasn’t been able to put everything together. O’Neal is calling Cousins his protegé and will have dinner with him on Monday after a meeting with all of the players.
O’Neal joins Mitch Richmond as a part of the Kings ownership group, and has become yet another former NBA player to have a small stake in an NBA franchise. Michael Jordan is the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats while Jason Kidd has a small share of the Brooklyn Nets. Magic Johnson owned a part of the Lakers before selling his share to become a part of the Dodgers ownership group while both Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake are minority owners of the Memphis Grizzlies.
O’Neal has known Mastrov for years, and their friendship is what led to him becoming a part of the ownership group. Mastrov is the founder of the 24 Hour Fitness gyms, and O’Neal became a regular member when Mastrov was getting the gyms off the ground in Los Angeles. When O’Neal moved to Miami, O’Neal helped him open some gyms in South Florida.
“We built a lot of 24 Hour Fitnesses in the Miami, South Florida area,” O’Neal said. “So when Mark introduced me to Vivek, we had a wonderful conversation. I’ve always prided myself by interacting with great leaders and great businessmen.”
The ownership group plans on building a new $448 million arena in downtown Sacramento, with the whole Downtown area being revamped. The arena is expected to be completed in 2016. O’Neal will continue with his role on TNT’s award winning Inside The NBA show on Thursday nights while working with the Kings ownership group.
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