Getty Images Shaquille O'Neal, Sacramento Kings

He hoops, he acts, he writes, he sings, he dances, he enforces laws and he commentates, among other things. Now Shaquille O'Neal can add eSports executive to his résumé.

The Sacramento Kings announced Monday that O'Neal will serve as the first general manager for its NBA 2K League team known as Kings Guard Gaming. Kings Guard is one of 17 NBA-owned teams that will select players at the inaugural NBA 2K League Draft in New York City on Wednesday.

"I'm looking forward to my role with Kings Guard," O’Neal said in a press release. "Just like I dominated the hardwood, music industry, showbiz, nicknames and broadcasting, I plan to help build the most dominant 2K franchise in history."

According to the release, O'Neal will "provide valuable basketball counsel as the team assembles its roster and evaluates the 102 players available in the upcoming draft."

O'Neal was basically Public Enemy No. 1 in Sacramento during the peak of the Kings-Lakers rivalry in the late 90s/early 2000s. Shaq and Kobe Bryant famously mooned Kings fans through the window of their team bus. But Shaq became a minority owner of the franchise in September 2013, shortly after Vivek Ranadive bought the team.

While O'Neal jokingly called the Kings the "Queens" during his career, he now refers to them as the "Shaqramento Kings."

Shaquille O'Neal, Sacramento Kings, Yao Ming

"We're excited to have one of the biggest icons in basketball serve as a guiding voice for our first NBA 2K League team," says Ryan Montoya, Sacramento Kings CTO and head of eSports. "Shaq's global appeal combined with his knowledge and passion for the game will be invaluable as we work to build a team of elite gamers who are passionate and competitive team players."

O'Neal appeared on the cover of NBA Live 96, NBA 2K6, NBA 2K7, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, NBA Hoopz, and NBA Inside Drive 2004 during his career. Most recently, O'Neal appeared on the cover of the NBA 2K18 Legend Edition. Since the NBA 2K15 iteration, O'Neal has also appeared as a virtual studio analyst in the popular game.

While O'Neal is well-versed in video games, it is unclear how much authority he will have on Kings Guard's picks Wednesday. In preparation for the draft, the Kings say, "The team has incorporated artificial intelligence and other innovations that examine player data sets, support from Sacramento Kings VP of Strategy and Analytics Luke Bornn, and additional basketball counsel from Shaq and gaming experts. In the coming weeks, Kings Guard will announce additional performance and human optimization staff who will support the team's growth and development."

Kings Guard holds the fourth pick in the NBA 2K League Draft, which will run in snake-form. Team selections will then move out to Sacramento and begin training at the team's base in the Golden 1 Center, the first eSports training facility and content studio built inside a sports arena.


The Kings have already been among the leaders of NBA teams to buy into the growing eSports basketball culture. Before this season, the Kings had NBA 2KTV host Rachel DeMita host a livestream during Kings Media Day, and  last month, De'Aaron Fox played video games on the Golden 1 Center video board on the NBA Twitch channel. In February, Ronnie 2K also made a stop in Sacramento and appeared on Kings Guard's social channels. NBA 2K's publisher, 2K Sports, is headquartered in Novato, California, less than a two-hour drive from Sacramento.

The NBA 2K League Draft will be held in The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (April 4) at 1 p.m. Mavs Gaming, Celtics Celtics Crossover Gaming and Jazz Gaming hold the first three picks.

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