Shaquille O’Neal says NBA game can be played in Qatar


shaq-conferenceA boy approaches Shaquille O’Neal just before he is about to participate in the Stars Chat session on the second day of the Aspire4Sport conference, Gulf-Times reported.

He is excited to meet the NBA legend. Something about the kid gets the seven-foot plus O’Neal, or Shaq as he is called, to talk to him.

The next few minutes, Shaq talks to him about technique. Spreads his fingers around the ball and gives him drills to practice every night.

“Sometimes it’s not about practice but about conversation,” Shaq says. “My father did it for me. Stuff like tuck your elbow in. I have six children, one who is his age, around 10. So I did the same for him.

“If he becomes a big player someday, hopefully it is because of that. I wanted to do something for him that he would never forget.”

Trust the leader in Shaq to still kick in when required. After all, the man led Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The man knows how to get the audience and people around going.

Sacramento Kings centre DeMarcus Cousins is a case in point.

“We speak twice a week on the phone,” he says about his conversations with Cousins. “He is very passionate about the game. Sometimes when you are too passionate, the emotions carry over to the game. You tend to get technical fouls. You are labelled a baby.

“John Wooden said that great players will receive unjust criticism and undeserved praise. You should not be affected by either.

“It is part of the business. There are 100 million people out there. Not all of them are going to like you.” O’Neal is now a minority owner in the NBA franchise he once called Sacramento “Queens”, and also plays a role of a mentor.

The man who kept the Kings from winning the NBA championship is now hell bent on doing anything possible to get them to win one.

“I have been a menace as a player to them but now I want to do anything possible to bring them up,” he says.

After he was announced as the minority partner earlier this year, the four-time NBA champion was in California’s capital city. “If you see me around town, come give me a hug, give me a kiss. I’ll do whatever you want,” he had said then.

The plan to turn around the Kings, he says, is long. “First we need to get some exciting players. We are around 200 million miles away from winning the championship at the moment. We will have to take small steps. We will have to take risks. Hope to have a bit of luck,” he says.

O’Neal moved from Orlando Magic, a team he helped build during his early years, to LA Lakers as a free agent. Emotions, he says, were not part of the decision making process.

“You never second guess your decisions. Especially, when they are taken intelligently. I don’t do anything in haste. For me it was a business decision. I was able to do records, I was able to do movies. I was able to get 60 more million dollars over what Orlando had offered me. It was a no-brainer for me. As you can see it was a correct decision. Kobe (Bryant) and me, we got three titles there,” he says.

What about his partnership with Penny Hardaway, the partnership he has often referred to be like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

“In LA, we had similar players. We had a young Kobe Bryant. No one knew then he would be so big,” he says.

LeBron James, he says, is a great player and a great team player. “A great team player is someone who makes everyone around look good too. He does that. I think moving to Miami was a right decision. They hated him for that but he has already won two (titles with them),” he says.

While he retired from professional basketball in 2011 after playing for Boston Celtics, he says he is at least 50 years away from thinking about a retirement plan.

“I am a young sexy guy. I have around 50 years left,” he laughs with the audience.

“My dream is to buy an old folks home and then move in. On the beach on the east coast. Have a big chair and a big screen watching my old games. I want to go out like this.”

Shaquille ‘Shaq’ O’Neal hinted that Qatar could soon host its very own National Basketball Association (NBA) game.

O’Neal, having recently acquired minority ownership of the Sacramento Kings, members of the NBA and once his rivals, said he was in talks with the team’s co-owners and HE Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Secretary General of Qatar Olympic Committee about hosting an NBA game in Doha The prospect of the premier basketball championship coming to Qatar was met with applause by an audience that packed the bleachers at the Aspire Dome.

“I give you my word that I’m going to try to come over here [to Qatar] in the next two years with the team [Sacramento Kings]. I know that Qatar’s premier basketball arena will be finished by October next year, which is probably too soon to bring a pre-season game, but we will be back,” said O’Neal.

During the 30 minute interview, O’Neal spoke of his past career, personal life and future plans, in which Qatar clearly features significantly.

When asked of the likelihood of an NBA game being played in Qatar, O’Neal said, “Yes I can see it, I’ll be talking to my co-owners and I’m sure they’ll do it. I also had a conversation with the HE Sheikh Saoud today about it, so we are all going to be working to get that going, but regardless, I’m going to be coming back [to Qatar] Inshallah.”

O’Neal played in 1207 NBA games (1197 started), averaging 23.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg in 34.7 minutes of action. He was a 15-time NBA All-Star, and won 4 NBA championships (three with Los Angeles Lakers, one with Miami Heat).

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