Shaquille O'Neal has bought a minority share of the Sacramento Kings and will be introduced as a member of the team's new ownership group on Tuesday.
O'Neal has been consulting with the Kings since the summer, when majority owner Vivek Ranadive asked him to mentor young big man DeMarcus Cousins. O'Neal has a long business and personal relationship with 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, who is another of Ranadive's partners, and Mastrov arranged the introduction between the future Hall of Fame center and Ranadive.
In recent weeks, sources said, the conversation expanded into O'Neal taking a small piece of the franchise. The Kings declined to say how much of a stake O'Neal bought.
It is a strange turn for O'Neal, who famously labeled his Los Angeles Lakers rivals as the "Sacramento Queens" after a tense seven-game Western Conference finals in 2002. O'Neal was a menace to the Kings and their great teams of that era, blocking them from reaching the NBA Finals and creating extreme animosity with the Sacramento fan base.
The Kings are experiencing a makeover after Ranadive purchased the team for more than $530 million in May following a battle with a group that wanted to move the franchise to Seattle. Ranadive has hired Pete D'Alessandro as general manager and Mike Malone as coach, and he recently added Hall of Famer Chris Mullin as an adviser.