The New Shaq Attack: A Media Blitz
Shaquille O'Neal, marketing genius.
Say you're a 37-year-old NBA star in the waning days of your basketball career. Do you gracefully fade into the background with your millions?
No way! Instead, you pull a brilliant publicity stunt by not getting into the White House. You get (what else?) a reality show next month, "Shaq Vs.," going one-on-one with athletes like Michael Phelps, Ben Roethlisberger and Serena Williams in their respective sports. You serve as "special guest enforcer" on WWE Raw wrestling Monday at Verizon Center.
"I like to do things that other people can't do," he told us before the show. Which makes Shaq one of the most interesting athletes out there. Aside from his day job with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was his law-enforcement infatuation, earning him a badge as a reserve officer in Miami Beach, and his dabbling in Florida real estate. Now: pro wrestling.
Backstage, Shaq (brown shirt and pants, size 15 diamond wedding ring) claimed he was a big fan of the excessively buffed and bronzed stars on the pro circuit: "I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of guys. I also consider them to be great athletes. You know, they respect me, I respect them." And he demonstrated his favorite closing move ("the Claw") on our colleague Dan Steinberg: "You grab somebody in the head and make them cry. Want me to show you?" (Note: Shaq spread his massive hand on Steinberg's skull but did not make him cry.) "I'll probably get locked up, you guys would probably write a bad article about me, TMZ will be looking for me."
Serving as celebrity host of the live broadcast, Shaq received wild cheers from the sellout crowd (including Redskins Jason Campbell, Mike Sellers, Rocky McIntosh and Stephon Heyer), plugged his reality show and traded smack talk with WWE's Chris Jericho, whom he challenged to a match "right here, right now." When Jericho backed down, Shaq smirked to the crowd, "D.C., I knew these girls would not fight me tonight." At the end -- surprise, surprise -- he climbed into the ring and went after 7-foot Big Show. Guess who won?
Clearly, a crossover star in the making. The only big boos of the night? They came when George W. Bush appeared in a recorded video about WWE's support of the military. Wonder if he can get into the White House unannounced these days?
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