Shaquille O’Neal is a good neighbor in Las Vegas. Take if from a dignitary who has lived in Vegas a while.
“Shaquille just a good, loyal neighbor. When he moves in, he really does care about the families,” Elaine Wynn said during a phone chat Tuesday morning. “His care for children is genuine. It’s not frivolous.”
Wynn’s comments about Shaq are not random. The Las Vegas hospitality icon is on the board of The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, which focuses its efforts on youth initiatives.
The Foundation announced this week its first Las Vegas event, dubbed “The Event,” set for Oct. 2 at MGM Grand Garden. Justin Bieber, Imagine Dragons, Snoop Dogg and Kelly Clarkson are the first announced headliners.
There will be others, too, as Shaq himself plans to take the stage with Snoop Dogg for rap he promises will be “PG-13.”
O’Neal has held a part-time residence in Las Vegas for 20 years, where he has several business interests. He lives in Atlanta during the NBA season. As an analyst on TNT, a four-time NBA champ and member of the Professional Basketball Hall of Famer, O’Neal is an expert on pro hoops.
And Shaq says Vegas is built for an NBA team.
“Las Vegas has grown a lot, and there is a lot of want for an NBA team,” O’Neal said during a chat at his charity’s Summerlin offices. “I don’t want to go on the record too far, but I’m leaning toward most definitely.”
Shaq said the city’s infrastructure and support system for an NBA franchise are already in place.
“Vegas can definitely sustain an NBA team,” he said. “We definitely have the fans, definitely have a supporting cast, and definitely have the sponsorship money. Hopefully it happens within the next five years.”
Earlier Tuesday, Wynn Las Vegas announced O’Neal as a brand ambassador and consultant for its WynnBet wagering app.
Shaq’s first piece of advice in this new role?
“Whatever betting platform Charles Barkley uses, get away from that,” O’Neal said.
Aside from his entrepreneurial activities and headlining status as DJ Diesel at the Wynn, O’Neal has developed a routine during his time in Vegas.
“I talk to the pool guy, the cabinet guy,” the 7-foot-1 former center said. “I do regular-person stuff. I go to the furniture store.”
The “regular-person stuff” includes giving back.
“It’s always a must to take care of your community, especially the children,” O’Neal said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Shaq’s influential Vegas charity partners include Andrew Pascal, the former Wynn Las Vegas president and chief operating officer and current CEO of PlayStudios CEO. Pascal met O’Neal formally through Shaq’s business and charity partner Perry Rogers.
“He’s just a really decent guy,” Pascal said. “The image people have of him, of being caring, fun-loving and wanting to promote and spread joy, that’s really who he is.”
Pascal says Shaq’s big vision, and general grand presence, is a good match for Vegas.
“Everything here is super-sized,” Pascal said. “It’s totally fitting to have Shaq be here, and be part of the community.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.