Could the ‘Shaquille O’Neal-as-Orlando GM’ story have come from … Shaq?

Kelly Dwyer
May 24, 2012

ESPN's Chris Broussard is reporting the Orlando Magic are likely to discuss their open general manager position with current TNT appear-on-TV'er analyst and former Magic center Shaquille O'Neal. I also just nearly made it to writing 40 words before collapsing into this:


Though the potential pairing would fly in the face of just about everything we've learned about the NBA, the Orlando Magic, Shaquille O'Neal and actual magic over the last few decades, Broussard insists the meeting could take place soon enough. Charles Barkley, on "The Dan Patrick Show" Thursday morning, even confirmed Shaq had told him he was set to interview. Here's Broussard's scoop, taken from his sources:

O'Neal, who began his legendary NBA career in Orlando, may meet with the Magic as soon as next week, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. While he has no front office experience, the Magic believe O'Neal's presence within the organization could help them retain Dwight Howard.


Orlando president Alex Martins was a member of the Magic organization when O'Neal was there as a player and has a solid relationship with him.


Your initial instinct is the correct one. Shaquille O'Neal would likely make a terrible general manager. His hubris and work ethic have been called into question repeatedly throughout his playing career, and even his work on TNT (in discussing deals and potential signings, it's clear O'Neal hasn't really made it through his collective bargaining agreement FAQ yet) has gone a long way toward dismissing any inclination he would be suitable as a decision-maker in the front office.

Toss in the fact that O'Neal repeatedly takes pot-shots at Magic center Dwight Howard, and you have a different angle entirely. Shaq has long appeared jealous of the Orlando All-Star, repeatedly referring to Andrew Bynum as the league's best center on TNT this season, calling Howard's potential free-agent flight "a travesty" earlier in the year, and genuinely acting a prat because it appeared for a while that Howard might be more beloved in the Orlando area that Shaq still calls home. That was the case for a while, at least.

So the idea of O'Neal's presence acting as some sort of calming influence on Howard appears ridiculous, but according to Broussard the two are chummier than you might think:

But sources close to both Howard and O'Neal insist the two privately have a friendly relationship and often send text messages to one another.

In fact, O'Neal often has been a confidante for Howard during this trying season in Orlando.

Odd. Doesn't exactly sound like info a team or league exec, privy to the potential meeting, would know about and/or pass along. Which is why the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz thinks the whole thing was served on a silver platter to Broussard, directly from the calming waters surrounding Camp Shaq:

It's hard to see it making sense for the Magic to leak, considering O'Neal is still reviled there for leaving the team high and dry as a free agent back in the summer of 1996. The team would look foolish in going after the biggest of all big names — only Magic Johnson, in NBA circles, isn't currently occupied either running or owning a team — in the eyes of not only the league, but the squad's dubious and frustrated fans.

Worse, if winning over Howard is the objective, a leak like this from Orlando's side wouldn't make Dwight any more keen on signing that contract extension that has been on the table for the last year and a half.

In fact, the only person that would gain anything from this sort of story would be … Shaq.

Just mentioning Shaquille O'Neal in the same breath with a possible interview to possibly throw his hat into the running for the Orlando Magic's GM job makes the Big Fella look good. It improves his bargaining position with Turner, it allows him amped-up NBA executive cred even if no meeting takes place and it allows O'Neal a nice tidy segment at the outset of Thursday's TNT pregame show to "discuss" the story, acting coy and essentially confirming impending talks all while not confirming nor denying. More and more attention.

And then you have the bit where Shaq and Dwight text each other all the time, friends all along. Swell guy, that Shaq.

Of course, as Schmitz also tweeted, the Magic can put an end to all of this by completely dismissing the rumor. Not offering the typical "no comment," but coming clean and telling the media they have absolutely no interest in Shaquille O'Neal for any position in their front office.

Shaq better hope they save that statement for Friday. He's got to look all executive-like on Thursday night, you know.

And if the Magic actually have interest in Shaquille O'Neal, NBA GM?