Shaq told us how a piece of advice from Magic Johnson helped him transform from a ‘happy-go-lucky’ basketball star into a successful investor

Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson
  • Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most successful athletes-turned-investors working today.
  • His interest in business was sparked by a piece of advice he received from the great Magic Johnson.
  • O’Neal now has stakes in many different businesses, including Google and 24 Hour Fitness.

Shaquille O’Neal is in the Basketball Hall of Fame for his enviable skills in the paint and impressive run of championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, but his career as an investor has been almost as prolific as his career on the court.

O’Neal, 45, has interests in a number of well-known companies, including Google, Krispy Kreme, and 24 Hour Fitness. He once owned over 150 Five Guys franchises, as well as 17 Auntie Anne’s locations, according to The Hustle.

But while O’Neal has made many successful investments, a transition to the business world wasn’t always part of his plan. The 15-time All-Star was recently promoting his partnership with American Express and explained how his life was changed by a piece of advice he got from another NBA legend: Magic Johnson.

“At first I was just happy-go-lucky to be a basketball player,” O’Neal told Business Insider of his early days in the league in the 1990s. “Then I met Magic Johnson for the first time. His quote to me was, it was OK to be famous, but at some point I want to start owning things.”

Johnson, a successful investor himself, founded Magic Johnson Enterprises in 1987. Some of his best-known ventures include Magic Johnson Theatres, purchased by Loews Theatres in 2004, as well as significant interests in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Sparks.

At first, O’Neal wasn’t sure of what to make of Johnson’s advice, but after watching the Hall of Fame point guard operate up close and observing the financial struggles of many of his NBA peers, he knew he had to start investing his money.

“I had no idea what he was talking about,” O’Neal said. “Then when I moved to L.A., I kind of watched how he was doing business closely. And then what scared me is that 70% of all athletes when they’re done playing have no income or nothing coming in.”

O’Neal earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2005. Now he offers his own financial advice, cautioning athletes to save their money and be ever sceptical of offers that sound too good to be true.

This year, O’Neal is using his business talents to promote American Express’ Small Business Saturday, a nationwide movement to encourage more holiday shopping at small businesses. Owners brought in an estimated $US15.4 billion on Small Business Saturday last year.

“Before I became Shaq, I didn’t have the luxury to go to all the big-time malls and the big-time stores, so the mum-and-pop shops have always had a special place in my heart,” said O’Neal. “I think Small Business Saturday is a day people should really take advantage of.”

Small Business Saturday is set for November 25, two days after Thanksgiving.