Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most dominating players in the history of basketball. While Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell dueled for supremacy as the best center in basketball half a century ago, Shaq was never seriously challenged for that title during his reign. When Shaq was on the floor, he was in charge and his statistics prove it. (For more on leaders, check out If These Famous World Leaders Were In Finance.)
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Shaq's professional career spanned 19 seasons with six different teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. His retirement from professional basketball marks the sunset on his career, but it may also signal the end of an era. The game has changed over the years and very few teams now feature a dominant force like Shaq prowling the paint, challenging all who came into his domain.
If Shaq had been offered as an IPO in 1992, how much would he have been worth? The answer may lie in the numbers he put up over the last two decades.
The Orlando Magic was founded in 1989 and had three straight losing seasons, compiling a record of 70 wins and 176 losses with an overall 28% win rate. Things changed in 1992 when the Magic scored the number one draft pick and selected Shaq. The Magic called it "the most important day in franchise history."
In his first season, Shaq was named NBA Rookie of the Year by ranking second in blocked shots, second in rebounding, fourth in field goal percentage and eighth in scoring. The next year, he led the team to the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers.
The following year Shaq led the team all the way to the NBA finals in only the team's sixth season. Although they lost to the Houston Rockets, they established themselves as a future power in the league. In Shaq's final season with the Magic, they posted 60 wins and cruised to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they were beaten by the Chicago Bulls. He closed the season at third in field goal percentage, third in scoring and ninth in blocked shots.
During Shaq's four seasons with the Magic, they compiled a record of 208 wins and 120 losses. The impact of the "Shaq Attack" was felt throughout the league as he drew fans to the game wherever the Magic played. The year after he left the team, their winning percentage dropped from 73% to 55%. (Shaq's influence in the NBA undeniable, just like The Impact Of Recession On Businesses.)
Shaq became a free agent in 1996 and joined the Lakers, a team with a storied history and movie star fans. Alongside Kobe Bryant and other talented players, the Lakers completed a three-peat by winning NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
In 2004, Shaq left the Lakers and signed with the Heat. With Shaq at center, the team made the playoffs every year, culminating with its first NBA Championship in 2006. On the way to earning their first banner, the Heat set franchise playoff records for most victories, home wins and consecutive home wins.
Four championship rings puts Shaq behind 24 other players who have won five or more NBA titles since 1948. His quest for a fifth was cut short when the Celtics lost to the Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals. (For some stock winner, read Choosing The Winners In The Click-And-Mortar Game.)
During his peak playing years of 1992–2005, he averaged 26.7 points and 12 rebounds per game. His career point total of 28,596 puts him fifth on the NBA's scoring list and his shooting percentage of 58% is second only to Artis Gilmore. He's seventh in blocked shots with 2,732 and twelfth in rebounds with 13,099.
In addition to being named the Most Valuable Player in 2000, he made 15 All-Star teams, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Shaq is also the youngest player ever named to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He is one of only three players in history to win the NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, and All-Star game MVP in the same year (2000). He also collected gold medals at the 1994 World Championship of Basketball and 1996 Olympics. (Shaq was clearly one of the best players in the game; here are some of Buffett's best picks Warren Buffett's Best Buys.)
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Was Shaq as valuable to his teams as Steve Jobs has been to Apple? We'll never know because we couldn't buy stock in Shaq and watch it grow. Another way to look at it is to review the financial data that might have been used to price his stock.
During his career, Shaq earned more than $292 million from basketball contracts alone, placing him first on the all-time earnings list. While his endorsement income varied, he earned an estimated $15 million in 2010 from promotional deals with Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Burger King, Comcast, Reebok, and Radio Shack. He has also sold millions of Dunkman and Shaq-branded sneakers since 1996. Off the court, Shaq appeared in movies, reality television shows, and cut a rap album.
The Bottom Line
Shaq's total career revenues could easily top half a billion dollars, not bad for a New Jersey-born kid who was abandoned by his biological father. Shaq's impact to the league extends well beyond his personal earnings as he increased ticket and merchandise sales both at home and on the road. His personality, likeability, unrivaled skills and ambassadorship of the game all contributed to the NBA's bottom line. (To learn more about sports contracts, read Top 7 Pro Athlete Contracts.)