On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcomed Shaquille O’Neal to discuss his success in the NBA, memories of Kobe Bryant, partnering with various franchises, and acclaim as a musician.
In 1992, O’Neal was recruited to the Orlando Magic and immediately became one of basketball’s most-talked-about rookies. He made history as the first rookie ever to be selected NBA Player of the Week in his first week of action. In 1993, during his debut season in the league, he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year and went on to make an appearance in every subsequent NBA All-Star Game for 15 years.
When not playing basketball, O’Neal was committed to showcasing his musical abilities. After its first release on Jive Records in 1993, Shaq Diesel quickly became a commercial success, selling over a million copies and earning an RIAA Platinum certification. The project included the hits “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)” and “(I Know I Got) Skillz” and reached No. 25 on the Billboard 200 chart, among other accolades. In 1994, he released a follow-up album called Shaq Fu: Da Return, which included collaborations with rap legends Method Man, RZA, and Redman. Despite the album’s lackluster sales, it was certified Gold by the RIAA and produced hits like “Biological Didn’t Bother” and “No Hook.”
Meanwhile, the tracklist for Shaq’s third album, You Can’t Stop the Reign, was jam-packed with legendary artists like JAY-Z, Bobby Brown, The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, and more. As a result, the basketball star became more deeply embedded in hip hop culture, where he collaborated with a wide range of musicians and even ventured into the EDM space as DJ Diesel. While his music career was short-lived, O’Neal has gone on to strike multiple million-dollar endorsements and partnerships with the likes of Walmart, Papa John’s, Forever 21, Pepsi, and many more.
For this week’s “Drink Champs” recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from Shaq’s interview. Check them out below and watch the full episode here.
1. On being a franchisee for Papa John’s in 2019
In 2019, when Shaq signed his contract with Papa John’s, the pizza chain was emerging from a two-year slump caused by controversies surrounding company founder and former spokesperson John Schnatter. O’Neal agreed to become the company’s franchisee after he stepped down, subsequently making him the first and only African American to do so. On “Drink Champs,” the former basketball player talked about how the deal came about.
He explained, “I said, ‘I’ll be involved if ‘ol boy is not around.’ So they made me the first African American member on the board, and we put some [women] on the board, and we’re doing well now. The guy that’s in charge — or the guy by the name of Jeff Smith — he brought me along. Jeff Smith owns it. I’m just the first and only African American member on the board of Papa John’s, so we’re doing big things now.”
2. On rapping with Fu-Schnickens and his Jive Records deal
A favorite group of Shaq’s from the early 90s was the Brooklyn, New York hip hop ensemble Fu-Schnickens, so when he was offered the chance to rhyme with them, he jumped at it. The song “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock),” which they worked on together, subsequently helped him get a $10 million deal with Jive Records. Since he had already amassed a considerable fortune through basketball, O’Neal explained collaborating with his favorite artists was more important to him than making a profit.
“I said, ‘I want to rap with my favorite rap group,’ which was Fu-Schnickens at the time. So I did Arsenio Hall’s show, shout out to Fu-Schnickens,” Shaq shared. “My agent calls me saying, ‘Man you ain’t gonna believe this. Jive offered you $10 million for three albums.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, $10 million?’ I never wanted to be a rapper, never wanted to do an album.”
3. On his Nas, JAY-Z, and Biggie collaboration and there not being enough money in music
From his 1996 album You Can’t Stop the Reign, O’Neal’s “No Love Lost” was reportedly set to be the first record that Nas, JAY-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. were all on at once. Unfortunately, due to label issues and, presumably, rap beefs, the song was only released with Hov and Lord Tariq on it. According to Shaq, “People didn’t clear it,” but that didn’t upset him.
“Not to disrespect you guys, but it wasn’t enough money in that for me. I went platinum, right? So I was like, ‘Oh I went platinum.’ They showed me the check and I was like, ‘This some bulls**t.’ Then I learned a valuable word: recoup,” O’Neal revealed. “I had to go up there like, ‘How y’all gonna charge me for studio and I got my own studio? This ain’t right.’ So I got a good few $100, 000 back, so I really focused on just going in there and having a good time with my favorite artists.”
4. On “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” being one of his favorite records in the club
Regarding his favorite era of music, Shaq said that the hip hop he grew up on and even created music within remains his all-time favorite. However, the former musician admittedly shared that he tries not to be critical of the younger generation. Shockingly, O’Neal reveals that GloRilla’s song of the summer “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” became one of his favorite records after he heard the song in a club one night.
Shaq stated, “I don’t really buy it, but when you’re in the club and they play it, you’re like…like that ‘F.N.F’ song by the girls. That s**t go hard.” He continued, “I was in the club the other [day] and I heard that ‘Let’s go!’ I’m like, ‘Who is that?’”
5. On why he doesn’t miss playing basketball
Shaq has received several individual accolades during his career, including Most Valuable Player in 1999–2000, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1992–1993, and 15 NBA All-Star selections. Although he had an undoubtedly successful NBA career, the ex-player claimed he doesn’t miss playing basketball professionally since he faced off against all of his childhood basketball heroes. “For me, it was about beating these legends. I don’t really see nobody that’s gon’ make me get crazy for it,” he shared.
6. On deejaying at Lollapalooza
In addition to winning championships and recording music, Shaq is also a DJ. Under the moniker DJ Diesel, he performed at the 2019 Lollapalooza Festival, kicking off his set with Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” while a man dressed as Jesus walked on stage. O’Neal recalled his set and his frequent doubters due to the fact that he doesn’t DJ often.
He revealed, “I came and the guy was like, ‘Aw, here we go. Another celebrity DJ.’ So, now I’m mad. I didn’t know what I was going to play, then I seen this dude that had a Jesus outfit on and I came out with ‘Jesus [Walks].’”
7. On Michael Jackson trying to buy his $70 million house
Whilst reflecting on the pop legend, Shaq remembered a time when Michael Jackson tried to purchase his Florida mansion after the basketball icon joined the Orlando Magic. He shared that the late singer attempted to buy the home not just once, but twice. As of 2021, O’Neal sold the property for $16.5 million, which included a 6,000-sq. ft basketball court and “bed that fit 50 people,” he claimed.
“MJ showed up at my house and tried to buy my house in Orlando. He just showed up at the door…so, I had this big $70 [million] house and I had a bed that fits 50 people. He said, ‘I want to buy the house.’ I was like, ‘It’s not for sale.’ Then I went to his house, this dude had a real zoo at his house,” Shaq explained.
8. On memories of Kobe Bryant practicing to be the greatest
Shaq and basketball fans agree that no one will ever be able to replicate the success that he and Kobe Bryant had while playing together. Though they had their disagreements, the two superstars always worked well together and achieved success on the court. When asked if he would choose Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, O’Neal picked the latter.
“Kobe was a different animal. I used to see Kobe dribble and shoot with no ball for an hour, then go out there and do the same move. Me and Kobe had similar attitudes. Kobe wanted to be the best ever. I wanted to be the best at killing you,” O’Neal revealed. “He used to practice four or five hours a day. I’m not doing that because my attitude was, ‘Why am I practicing four or five hours for you? Who are you? I already know what I got to do.’”
9. On his biggest regret before Kobe Bryant’s passing
About halfway into the conversation, O’Neal started talking about some of the things he most regrets, including the lack of time he spent with Kobe Bryant. While playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s, Shaq and Kobe had their differences. However, they patched things up in the years leading up to Kobe’s death. Shaq shared that if he could do it all over again, he would call the late basketball player more often.
“You wake up and they’re not here, so if I could just see him one last time…and we just argue, play, I would love to have that. To all the people out there, if you have discrepancies with somebody, but you still love and care about them, reach out. You ain’t gotta see them, you ain’t gotta hug them and kiss them, just send them a text,” he stated.
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