When Shaquille O’Neal decided to leave the Orlando Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 1996, it ended one of the most intense free agency decisions of all time. The team that instantly built a title contender around Shaq had lowballed him in free agency, allowing the Lakers to sign him and make him the centerpiece of a dynasty.
After he made his decision to leave Orlando, O’Neal was tired of all the business talk and just wanted to focus on what was important to him. “I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok,” Shaq said.
After contract negotiations with the Magic failed and the Lakers swooped in to sign him, Shaquille O’Neal was clearly tired of talking about the money he would make and was ready to get back on the court. As a fan of/commercial star for Pepsi and Reebok athlete that sported the Shaq Attaq shoe, he just wanted to lean back on what always brought him happiness.
While the Magic fizzled out after numerous injuries to Shaq’s former co-star, Penny Hardaway, the Lakers won three titles with O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Although Shaq has expressed regret about leaving the Magic, the front office’s strategy to re-sign him was extremely poor and Los Angeles certainly fit someone with as big of a personality as him.
O’Neal’s quote also foreshadowed the seemingly endless number of brands he would promote in commercials, even to this day, a decade out from his playing days. He received numerous endorsement opportunities when he was tearing it up on the hardwood and continues to promote products today, notably The General Insurance and Gold Bond.
Shaq’s life in retirement from the NBA has been about landing commercial deals and talking about the modern NBA on television.