Retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal had his choice of networks to join, but TNT’s “Inside the NBA” is where Shaq’s post NBA career will continue.
According to the AP, O’Neal agreed Thursday to a multi-year deal with Turner Sports to become an analyst on its NBA coverage, where he will take the fourth chair on the TNT set alongside Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
”I’m just going to try to make it more fun than it already is,” O’Neal said during a conference call.
A four-time NBA champion during his 19-year career, the 7-foot-1 O’Neal also had one of the NBA’s biggest personalities, one who gave himself many of nicknames. He was expected to quickly find work in the entertainment industry upon his retirement.
”The addition of ‘The Big Analytical’ will be terrific,” Smith said in a statement. ”I can’t wait to make verbal passes to the most dominant center of our time.”
O’Neal will be part of TNT’s coverage of All-Star weekend — scheduled next season for Orlando, his first NBA home — and the playoffs. He doesn’t think it will be difficult having to criticize Kobe Bryant, whom he feuded with as Lakers teammates, or any other players.
”I have the ability and the backing to give fair criticism. The only time I have trouble with people giving criticism is when they haven’t walked that walk,” O’Neal said. ”I’ve walked many walks in my 19-year career, so I think any criticism that I give should be fair.”
A 15-time All-Star, O’Neal decided to retire in fifth place on the league’s career scoring list after he was slowed by injuries in recent seasons. But even as his game suffered, he remained one of the NBA’s most popular players and should fit right in on the fourth seat of the TNT studio show, occupied mostly last season by Chris Webber.