- A showman, businessman and entertainer: Shaquille O'Neal's larger-than-life personality is like no other. Now retired, the NBA legend has his sights on throwing the biggest parties ever.
He’s a four-time NBA champion and a three-time Finals MVP. He’s been to the All-Star Game 15 times in his illustrious 19-year career and was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2000. He’s a businessman and an active investor. A showbiz star and a pure entertainer.
He’s been in dance offs against enough athletes and has appeared in enough television cameos to achieve what others would consider more than their fair share of enjoyment, but Shaquille O’Neal isn’t done putting his trademark on “fun.”
After debuting “Shaq’s Fun House”––his part carnival, part cabaret, part music festival extravaganza—at Miami Music Week in March, O’Neal told The Crossover he’s ready for something bigger.
“I want to do something different, to carry out an idea that’s new,” O’Neal said. “I want to be larger than life and over the top.”
His proposition? Throwing “the biggest Super Bowl Party the world has ever seen.”
On Feb. 1, 2019, O’Neal will attempt to do exactly that, bringing his Fun House to SunTrust Park in Atlanta for a complete carnival midway experience that will also feature performances from GRAMMY Award-nominated rap trio Migos, DJ Tiesto, DJ Diplo, Lil Jon, T-Pain and a set by Shaq himself.
A limited number of tickets will go on sale for $249.99 to the general public on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. local time.
O’Neal caught up with The Crossover to discuss his latest venture, his love for music, his son’s future, the current state of the NBA, and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Alaa Abdeldaiem: Tell me something––how does a retired basketball legend like yourself wind up planning one of the wildest, most anticipated and exclusive parties like this? How did the concept of Shaq’s Fun House start?
Shaquille O’Neal: With all of the things we’ve got going on in the world today, there’s always two things that bring people together. That’s sports and music. So when I was planning things with Joe [Silberzweig] and Adam [Richman] to put together “Shaq’s Fun House,” we were working through something that was part music festival, part carnival, part circus. And the Super Bowl is going to be all about fun. I’ve been to a lot of Super Bowls and this one is in Atlanta where I live, so I knew I had to go big. At the first Fun House we had in Miami, Diplo was there, Steve Aoki was there, Gronk was there and he jumped on my back and my neck is still sore. But I can’t wait to do this every year.
AA: Did you know back during the event in Miami that you wanted to do this type of thing at the Super Bowl?
SO: Yeah I did. I’ve known I’ve wanted to do this for a while, even back when I was playing. But back then I was often times playing through the Super Bowl. But after I retired and was just working in a media industry, I wanted to do something big, something that I truly enjoy. And this is the idea we came up with.
AA: Why do you think this is going to be the biggest party ever?
SO: Because I’m the biggest being in the city and there’s no party like a Shaq party. And look, Migos are going to be there. We got Tiesto, Diplo, Lil Jon, T-Pain, myself. Everybody is going to be there.
AA: Speaking of Migos, Lil Jon and T-Pain, who are some music artists you think are killing the game today?
SO: Oh man, there’s a lot. I listen to all kinds of music. I grew up in New Jersey and then I’ve been in Georgia and Texas and Louisiana. So I’ve got all kinds of music. I’m big on the XXXTentacion kid. I thought he was very talented. I like Lil’ Peep and Joyner Lucas. I like a lot of old school artists, too. I have a playlist full of them and I can play that playlist forever. And for me, music puts me at ease, especially when I DJ, whether it’s trap or EDM or dubstep, it doesn’t matter.
AA: There’s also going to be a set by you, DJ Diesel, at this event. When did your love for music and mixing start?
SO: High school, so that would’ve been 1988. I DJ’d in high school, DJ’d in college and then got away from it for a while because I was doing albums. And then toward the end of my career, seven or eight years ago, I came back into it because the technology was different.
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AA: Who do you think is the best rapper in the NBA right now?
SO: The best rapper is me.
AA: No one else compares?
SO: I don’t know if they compare, but I know I proved myself. I’ve done stuff for Notorious B.I.G., Fat Joe, Nas, Jay-Z, Dj Quik, Snoop and they never charge me. Nobody’s bigger than that.
AA: Now alongside having “DJ” on your resume, you were also a pretty darn good basketball player, so I want to talk some NBA. We’re almost two months into the season now. Who’s for real, and who are the pretenders?
SO: Well, I don’t want to call out the pretenders because a lot of these guys are very, very sensitive. But the top team in the East is definitely Toronto. And the top team in the West is Golden State. They went through a little rough patch, but when they get DeMarcus Cousins back, they’ll really start to roll. They’ll be a really hard team to beat. There’s a lot of talent on that team. So my Finals prediction is Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors.
AA: And your sleeper team?
SO: Philly. Philly is still kind of scary. They have Jimmy Butler now and once they start rearranging their roles and figuring out how to put the pieces together, they’ll also be a dangerous team.
AA: You recently gave Giannis, the Greek Freak, your “Superman” nickname. Why is he deserving?
SO: He’s so elusive. The way he plays, he plays with honor, respect and passion. He plays the game like a big man should be playing. He’s out there dominating in the paint, taking it to the hole, throwing it down, running around the floor like a guard. And people are out there saying, “He doesn’t have a shot.” I don’t need big guys to shoot. He’s out there averaging 27 points, which is how a big man should dominate if he wants his team to win championships. And he’s a good kid. So he’s now the new Superman. He’s a real Superman, not a pretender.
AA: What’s up with the Houston Rockets this season? Did you expect them to fall so far from the top this quickly?
SO: I didn’t expect them to fall so far, but it seems to me like they went into the summer just thinking, “We’re good. We almost beat Golden State,” and they didn’t work on things for them to be able to come back with the same attitude. Last year, they had that attitude. You had James Harden come in and say, “I’m going to be the best player in the game. I’m tired of people saying I’m third or fourth. I’m going to go get that MVP.” Chris Paul came in and played. People reminded him he didn’t have a championship, and he came in and played like he’s won a championship. I think when they lost Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza on defense, that hurt. They never played defense anywhere until those guys made key stops. Now, they have no one making key stops.
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AA: What are your thoughts on Kevin Durant’s comments about LeBron and the type of coverage he gets, creating a “toxic” environment? Do you think he’s right, that players can’t thrive next to the King, or was what he said out of line?
SO: I didn’t really understand what he was trying to say because I’ve been in that position and I know that a lot comes with it. I felt like as an NBA player, when you’re the best, that’s what you want. When I was a young guy coming in and I saw the type of following guys got like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson, that’s what I wanted. All the guys who play with LeBron get new contracts because of LeBron, and they thrive because of LeBron. And when you’re the man, this is the type of stuff you’re going to have to go through. Other people just won’t like it.
AA: The Lakers have now won 13 of their last 18 games after a rough start to the season and there are talks they might be able to add Ariza. Do they have what it takes for a postseason run? What changed in their dynamic?
SO: If they add Ariza, that would be very big for them. They might get second or third in the Western Conference. Look, when you put good players around LeBron, he’s going to make them strive to the next level. When he went to the Finals in Cleveland all he had were a couple of shooters, a couple of rebounders and one big guy, and he made it to the Finals. He went to Miami and had D-Wade playing and Bosh and they won championships. He went back to Cleveland and now had Kevin Love and Kyrie and they won one. So, when you put players around him, they’ll definitely take it to the next level, because even right now, they’re just 1.5 games behind first place.
AA: You were known back in the day for literally tearing rims down, and today in college hoops, a lot of us are looking to Zion Williamson and the abuse he brings to the rim. So I’m curious, as someone who has done it, do you think Williamson can one day take down entire backboards?
SO: I most definitely think he can. He’s a very talented young kid who sadly happens to be a Duke product. I hope he stays in school a couple of years so he learns the game a lot. But he’s going to be a very interesting character when he gets into the NBA.
AA: You have a son of your own who was ready to make a name for himself at UCLA before he was forced to sit out this season with a heart ailment. Has Shareef’s health changed your perspective on life at all? And has it changed his approach to the game?
SO: My conversation with him was, before you get to the ultimate level, these are things you go through. Trials and tribulations. This is something I’ve very thankful UCLA caught. We’re going to get it fixed, and then we’re going to move on. Personally, he’s a little down because heart surgery is a big thing, but I broke it down for him and asked him, “Well, son, what’s going to happen if you blow your knee up?” He said, “I’ll have to sit out a year.” “What’s going to happen if you tear your Achilles?” “I’ll have to sit out a year.” I told him this is the same thing. We get surgery. We get it fixed. We rehab. We move on. He’s a great kid, a perfect kid, so he’ll be fine. I’ll make sure of it.