LAS VEGAS — Shaquille O’Neal — NBA hall of famer, multi-million investor, commercial sponsor mainstay and self-described tech geek — was asked June 13 during his closing keynote at Akamai’s Edge World 2019 how he wants to be remembered. His response drew an audible “awwww” from the crowd.
“I want people to say ‘Shaq is a nice guy,’” the 47-year-old father of six said. “Every day I try to do 4-5 things that make people smile.”
Humble, hilarious and touching, O’Neal’s presentation put a seemingly perfect bow on top of the annual tech event, with him sharing a lot more about his investment ideas over reliving his basketball career.
“When I was young, I was a mercenary [investor], I wanted the big hit,” but as he got older, O’Neal looked to be a “missionary” with his investments instead. “Is this going to change the world?” is a question he asks now before getting involved in companies.
He got in early with investing in Google, has owned hundreds of restaurants and car washes, a few dozen gyms, a Krispy Kreme franchise here, a movie theater there. He’s on the board of director’s for Papa John’s and cashed in big — thanks to a 2016 investment — when doorbell security company Ring was bought by Amazon for $1 billion in 2018.
He only invests in companies and people he likes, and his general attitude toward life — “I want to do great things” — comes from parents who disciplined him, and coaches who cared just as much about his classroom performance as they did his work on the court.
“Growing up, my parents did a great job pushing horror stories in my face, that 70% of professional athletes end up with nothing. I wish I was smart enough to go to MIT. I wish I was smart enough to go to Harvard,” O’Neal said. “I was a medium-level juvenile delinquent. I was a class clown. Once my coach said ‘No pass, no play,’ I started working harder in class.”
He was asked at one point what he recommends when it comes to dealing with disappointment, with him offering the same advice he offers to his kids (who, he added, need two degrees each if they want a part of any inheritance).
“Life’s about peaks and valleys,” said O’Neal, who was cut from his high school team not once, but twice. “Just because you’re not on top right now, means you have to work to get there. And once you get there, keep working.”
And — because a teamwork quote was expected at some point — he advised attendees on how to make the most of your business: “Continue to utilize your teammates, continue to fight for each other,” he said. “And keep having fun.”
In keeping with the “fun” theme of his keynote, Kim Salem-Jackson, Akamai’s VP of global marketing and corporate communications, offered O’Neal the role of “chief fun officer” with the company, which he accepted … on one condition.
“I come in at 12 and leave at two.”