Shaquille O’Neal arguably redefined professional basketball. He was such a presence in the paint that Shaq transformed every game in which he played. Defense had to shift down low, giving shooting guards a steady stream of open looks at the hoop. Throughout his illustrious career, O’Neal was known by a variety of names, all pointing back to his mythic brand. He was Superman, Shaq Diesel, The Big Aristotle… And, since his playing days, Shaq has been seen in a police uniform, protecting and serving. And, in two viral videos, playing hoops with some neighborhood kids as a way to encourage good relationships between the community and the cops.
Shaq has been a lot of things, and his brand has meant a lot of things to countless people. After his career on the court, Shaq has found success as an analyst, a product pitchman, and a serial entrepreneur. Now Shaq is trying to be something else: an actor. Recently, Shaq joined a group of professional basketball stars for a fun ensemble comedy called “Uncle Drew,” in which a long-lost street-ball star returns to take back the courts he used to rule. But this is not Shaq’s only current foray into entertainment. He’s also developing a TV program with Ken Jeong, which Shaq has compared to the Rush Hour movies starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.
So, can the Dominant One find success on the big and small screen to the level he did on the hard court? Well, if you ask him, Shaq doesn’t shy away from the challenge, recently telling a reporter he wanted to be “big as the Rock.” By “Rock,” he means Dwayne Johnson, the former pro wrestler who is, arguably, one of the biggest box office draws on the planet. While that might seem like a long shot for Shaq, the man does have charisma to match his massive frame, something that has certainly helped rocket the Rock into the stratosphere in Hollywood. Johnson has been able to find success — and huge pay days — starring in live action cartoon reboots (GI Joe), movies based on TV shows (Baywatch) and sequels to movies so long ago they may as well be remakes (Jumanji). Through it all, Johnson is laughing with his audience all the way to the bank.
Shaq may be able to succeed in much the same way. He fills up a screen, has a quick sense of humor, and knows not to take himself too seriously. Though he is taking his transition to acting seriously, saying he wants to be in thrillers, dramas, comedies… to run the genre gamut. There may be some doubters, but the door of opportunity is wide open for Diesel. For now, it’s a big door, for one of the best “big men” ever, a character who remains larger than life.