When it comes to personal branding and marketing in the NBA, you’d be hard-pressed to find many guys better at it than Shaquille O’Neal. The four-time NBA Champion is a man of many talents. He’s starred in movies, released his own rap mixtape, created a various signature lines of sneakers with Reebok and endorsed numerous products on TV and in print. He’s a renaissance man with many business ventures, and you could point to his off-court popularity as the progenitor for the ubiquitous #branding we see in the game today with players like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
However, there’s one business decision Shaq deeply regrets. He revealed that dreadful business decision during the season premiere of In Depth with Graham Bensinger:
“So [Starbucks CEO] Howard [Schultz] comes and says, ‘Shaq, I wanna give you the opportunity to go in with me and open up these Starbucks franchises in African American communities.’ And I’m always the guy that if I don’t believe in it, can’t do it. Will never do it. No amount of money can make me endorse something that I’m not 100 percent behind. So I looked in the great Howard Schultz’s face and said, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir. I don’t think it’s gonna work.’ You should have seen his face. He was like… alright. We’re still good friends today but that was one of my worst business decisions.”
It turns out that black people, like all people, actually do drink coffee and Shaq missed out on millions. Whoops.
Shaq isn’t exactly hurting for cash, but the branding potential by getting together with Starbucks would have been immense. Imagine grabbing your pumpkin spice latte with Shaq’s face on the front. Okay, maybe the world isn’t ready for that, but it’s a dream that could have been a reality.
Starbucks gaffe aside, Shaq’s list of on-court regrets are a bit peculiar. He isn’t a maniacal competitor a la Kobe Bryant; he just wanted to win some games, score lots of buckets and have everyone love him. That sentiment seeps out of the other regrets Shaq listed:
“The only regret I have right now… I have two regrets – actually three. Missing 5,000 free throws, not passing up Wilt Chamberlain in points, and not being higher on the scoring list. Those were my only 3 regrets. I don’t have any other regrets. I have four rings when I only wanted one. I’m good.”
You won’t hear many superstar athletes actually verbalize that they only wanted one ring. Shaq marches to the beat of his own drum, which is what made him such a fun NBA personality. He was truly committed to the entertainment portion of the game. At the end of the day, only one team hoists the trophy each season. Winning trumps all, but there should be an appreciation for players who do their best to entertain the fans. There’s a special place in the NBA canon for guys like Jason Williams and J.R. Smith, because they bring pure entertainment to an 82-game grind. Shaq happened to be both insanely entertaining and a Hall of Fame beast on the block. Luckily for us, he’s still giving us a little entertainment off the court.