SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Shaquille O’Neal spent the first part of the century smashing Sacramento’s dreams of an NBA championship. Now he wants to spend the next part doing anything he can to build the Kings into a winner.
Declaring the new name of the city “Shaqramento,” O’Neal began by taking steps in his size-22 shoes Tuesday to make amends to Kings fans for his past verbal swipes. The new minority owner of the Kings said he just wanted to rile up people and market the game when he called the franchise the “Sacramento Queens” while winning three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I apologize,” O’Neal said. “If you see me around town, come give me a hug, give me a kiss. I’ll do whatever you want.”
The 15-time All-Star center promised to use the same brand that bullied Sacramento for years to bring positive attention to California’s capital city.
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O’Neal’s larger-than-life personality did just that on his first day on the job. He attracted a crowd of about 75 reporters, with TV trucks fighting for the closest parking space outside Sacramento’s suburban practice facility and about a dozen fans trying to sneak into the parking lot.
O’Neal said has no intention of being a silent investor. He wants to be a mentor to volatile center DeMarcus Cousins, give his input on basketball decisions and help the team build the NBA’s first “indoor-outdoor arena.”
O’Neal said he learned decades ago from Hall of Famer and friend Magic Johnson that endorsements “are good, but you want to own stuff.” He declined to reveal his stake in the team.
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• The 2015 NBA All-Star weekend will be split between two New York arenas, with Madison Square Garden to host the game, two people with knowledge of the plans said Tuesday.
Barclays Center in Brooklyn will host the Saturday skills events, the people confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the plans were to be announced at a news conference Wednesday.