Shaquille O’Neal, at 39 the oldest player in the National Basketball Association this season, is retiring after a 19-year career in which he earned almost $300 million in salary and millions more in endorsements.
He also was paid about $15 million a year for endorsements of 24-Hour Fitness, Icy Hot, VitaminWater, Burger King, Kraft Foods, Pepsi, Comcast, Radio Shack, Reebok and Taco Bell, according to Sports Illustrated’s The Fortunate 50.
“I would imagine that he is poised to transition to being talent in the sports entertainment industry, similar to Charles Barkley and others,” Stephen McDaniel, who teaches sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Maryland, said in an e-mail.
O’Neal was sixth this year on Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Power 100, which rates American athletes on and off the field. His net worth was estimated at $135 million two years ago by Forbes magazine.
While endorsements may still come his way, sports marketing experts say O’Neal may lose some of his contracts that were contingent on his participation as an active player.
Companies seeking sports figures as spokesmen tend to sign contracts with “existing superstars” such as the Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, said Steve Olenick, a lawyer with Davis & Gilbert in New York.
“He may latch on with a start-up or social media company,” Olenick said, noting that O’Neal used Twitter to make public his decision.
‘The Best Bang’
Other companies, however, are looking for big-time talent to represent their products, Olenick said in a telephone interview.
“Endorsers want the best bang for their buck,” he said. “He’s not going to sell your product. He’s not the dominant force he once was. It’s tough to speculate whether he’ll keep some of his deals. A lot of companies want existing NBA players.”
O’Neal, unlike some athletes who have muddied their reputations with off-court activities, has managed to avoid situations that could drive endorsers away, McDaniel said.
“Shaq has always had a likable and playful personality,” he said. “He is a lock for Hall of Fame. He has also managed his brand well in that he has avoided off-the-court trouble. So, he has a good image and hasn’t damaged his credibility.”
In 2004, O’Neal was traded from Los Angeles to Miami, where he won his fourth title in 2006. O’Neal played for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers before joining the Celtics as a free agent before the start of the 2010-2011 season. He was limited to 37 games this season for the Celtics because of injuries.
Off the court, O’Neal has released four rap albums and headlined a pair of ABC reality television shows, “Shaq’s Big Challenge” and “Shaq Vs.” He starred in a number of movies, including “Blue Chips” and “Kazaam,” and has been a reserve police officer in Los Angeles and Miami.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and other mainstream entertainment, which helps keep him in the public eye as this did wonders to jump-start Emmitt Smith’s cache on the lucrative public-speaking circuit,” McDaniel said.
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