Shaq explains why he's renting a baseball stadium to throw a Super Bowl party that's 'part music festival, part carnival, part circus'
- Shaquille O'Neal spoke to Business Insider about renting out the Atlanta Braves' baseball stadium for a Super Bowl event he's putting on called "Shaq's Fun House."
- O'Neal also discussed his experience in music and DJ-ing, and his career after retiring from the NBA.
In March, NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal hosted a lineup of musicians, carnival acts, and food vendors at a private Miami Music Week event he called "Shaq's Fun House.""Shaq's Fun House" will return in February as a public event to coincide with the 53rd Super Bowl in Atlanta. O'Neal has rented out the concourse of the Atlanta Braves' SunTrust Park stadium for the event and enlisted performers like Migos, Tiesto, Diplo, T-Pain, and Cirque Du Soleil, along with a list of food vendors including STK and Waffle House.
O'Neal and the event's partners, Medium Rare founders Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman, spoke with Business Insider about putting on "Shaq's Fun House," which they're billing as "part music festival, part carnival, part circus."
Shaq also touched on his history of DJ-ing and rapping, his retirement from the NBA, and his contentious working relationship with NBA analyst Charles Barkley.
Tickets for "Shaq's Fun House" are on sale now.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
John Lynch: Your team has billed this event as "part music festival, part carnival, part circus," each of which could be a good time on its own. But why combine those three into one event?Shaquille O'Neal: Because it's never been done before. Two things that bring people together are sports and music, and I've dominated both. And everyone knows that the Shaq brand is all about fun. I've been to a lot of Super Bowl parties, and, you know, they're all the same. I wanted this one to be different because I live in Atlanta. Atlanta's my town, and the first one I did in Miami was epic. Diplo, Aoki ... Gronk when he jumped on my back and almost broke my back. We want to recreate that fun here. So I'm renting out the Battery, which is SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves' stadium, and we're just going to have a great time. Again, it's going to be food by STK, Waffle House. Cirque Du Soleil's Mystére is going to be there.
It's just something that really hasn't been done before. With me, when Joe and Adam were talking about it, they just asked, "Well, what are the things you like to do?" I was like, "I like to eat. I love to go to a circus. When I'm in Vegas, I love to go to Cirque Du Soleil shows." And they were like, "That's it! That's it! That's what we're going to do." So the first one we created last year, and like I said earlier, it was epic.
Lynch: In March, you had this at Miami's Music Week. This time, you're coinciding it with the Super Bowl. Why the Super Bowl as an event, instead of having it at a larger music festival or something along those lines?
O'Neal: Well, the Super Bowl, it's always going to bring in a hundred million people. Everyone likes to party, and you just have to present people with the best party. Before I met Adam and Joe, when I was a NBA player, I held the title of the best party-thrower in the world. I once rented out the Miami Zoo, the whole zoo, and brought it to my house in Miami. And it was epic. I did a "Scarface" party in Miami. Al Pacino wasn't there, but his best friend was there. And the whole cast of "Scarface" was there. I've been doing parties since 1992, and now I'm just back. Now, I'm doing it bigger, and I'm doing it funner.
Joe Silberzweig: Just to chime in, you know, Shaquille's brand is larger-than-life and over-the-top, and there's nothing bigger than the biggest sports and entertainment weekend of the year, which is the Super Bowl. And it's so fitting for his brand and how we approach the "Fun House" concept. Really that's what makes this event so unique is it's Shaquille's DNA in every vertical. Adam and I work with him to bring his vision to life, whether that be on the music side, with Migos, Tiesto, and Diplo, artists that he loves, or on the food and beverage side, working with STK and Waffle House. Picking out carnival rides, whatever it may be. It's really all his magic touch. And that's what brings the event together so well.
Adam Richman: To add to that, we saw such a big market opportunity around the Super Bowl. There's been tons of parties around the Super Bowl. Maxim, Playboy. These events have existed 10, 15 years. We feel it's really stale and boring, and the question was, how do we do something different? How does Shaquille really bring his party magic to the Super Bowl and do something that's never been done before? And we're really bringing the fun back. That's the attitude here. It's not a concert. You said it before: there's three things going on here. It's a music festival, it's a circus, it's a carnival. We don't just want to be one of those things, we want to be all three and really do something different, not just one of these boring concerts that everyone has "been there done that" a hundred times.
Lynch: Although it is a solid lineup, music-wise. You've got Migos performing, and a lot of people were wanting to see them perform at the halftime show. It's in Atlanta this year, they're from Atlanta. Shaq, do you think the NFL missed an opportunity there, though you guys are sort of taking advantage of it?O'Neal: I definitely think that they should have had Migos. Atlanta has been dominating the hip-hop scene for many years. They should have had like a 15-minute segment of all Atlanta hot-shots, to at least come and do one song. But yes, I definitely think that's a missed opportunity. Migos is the hottest thing around right now. It's a missed opportunity. But when they miss, Shaq will get the rebound, baby.
Lynch: [Laughs] You're also DJ-ing at this event. I was wondering, what draws you to that as a form of creative expression? What do you like about DJ-ing?
O'Neal: I've been doing it since high school and college, '89. I actually DJ-ed in college to get extra money to buy food and all that. When I got to the NBA, I got away from it and started rapping, but the last ten years I've been doing parties, and I've been doing corporate events. It's just fun. Like I said, music and sports really brings people together. Listen, when you're at a party and you play a song that everybody loves, it brings people together. I have a playlist for when I do my corporate work that's called "White Boy Classics." They love it. [Sings emphatically] "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame / Darling you give love..." Man, they just go crazy. You should see Adam and Joe dancing on tables.
Lynch: [Laughs] You know, kids these days might not know that you've got a platinum-certified rap album, with '93's "Shaq Diesel." How does your music from the '90s hold up to you? Do you ever go back and listen to it?
O'Neal: I go back and listen to it. Lyrics-wise, it still holds up. And again, whenever I do business, I'm big on the team concept. I realized I probably couldn't do that by myself, so I went out and said, "Let me get Notorious B.I.G. Let me call Jay-Z and Nas, B-Real and Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Eric Sermon and Redman. Let me give these guys a call and see if they would do it." And the funny thing about all of them is that, when I first made the call, everybody was like, "Oh, you're a basketball player," but then soon as I got in the studio and showed them, they were like, "Man, let's do it. Let's do it." And it was fun.
Lynch: You retired from the NBA in 2011, but you haven't retired in any other sense of the word since then. You've stayed busy with commercials, commentary - all that you're doing. Do you ever envision what your real retirement will look like or plan that out?
O'Neal: My real retirement will be when I run for sheriff in 2024 and win, and I call all my partners and say, "You know what, it's been real, but now I have another duty to do. Protect the communities and keep people safe. Don't call me every again. I love you. Bye."
O'Neal: That year, I was obviously very old. Older. And you know, I didn't feel right as an entertainer scoring eight or nine points. That's not the Shaq that people know and love. When I got my career-ending injury, for some people it would have been, "Oh, I'm not done. I'll rehab and come back." For me it was, "Thank you very much. Now it's time to do something else." We expect fans to pay all this money for us to go out and perform, but if you're going to pay all this money, I'm going to give you a great show. That's what I always wanted to do. So my last year, in Boston, when I was averaging eight, nine points, I didn't feel like The Shaq at all. So, when I got my career-ending injury, I was happy.
Lynch: If your prime were today, do you think you'd evolve your game at all to fit the small ball, stretch-fives of today's league?
O'Neal: If my prime were today, I wouldn't need to evolve. They would need to evolve around me. You've got big guys shooting jumpers, that's just telling me one thing: that you don't like the contact. If you don't like the contact, and I'm the contact-bringer, you're already out your game. And then people always say, "Well, you have to defend." If you shoot 10 threes, you're not Steph Curry. See what I'm saying? If you shoot 10, it might be a game where you hit seven out of 10, but you're not going to do that on a consistent basis. And if you're bumping with me, then if you shoot, your arms and legs are going to be tired, and that's going to bring your percentage down even more. And people say, "Oh, you'd step out." I'm not stepping out of nothing. I'm staying in the paint. I'm averaging 50. I'm going to make all these big guys cry, and complain, and quit, like I did when I played before, and I'd average 45 without free throws today. These soft, cupcake puppies in the league they got now.
Lynch: One last thing, you know, a lot of us have to deal with difficult coworkers. But you've got a uniquely difficult coworker in Charles Barkley, who you've had a contentious relationship with. Are you tired of him at all, or how are you putting up with him?
O'Neal: Like I always tell people when it pertains to the Kobe relationship or the Charles Barkley relationship, the key word is "respect." You could say what you want to say. I can say what I want to say, but you better respect me, and I'm sure you feel the same way. So as long as you have respect, the team will always thrive. Once you have disrespect, the team will no longer thrive. Everyone knows Charles is opinionated. I'm opinionated, but we respect each other and love each other. I consider him more of an annoying big brother, and we have that dynamic that works really good for us.
Lynch: Are there any two teams that you'd like to see in the Super Bowl, since you've got this event coincided with it?
O'Neal: Oh, I'd like to see my Cowboys there. How about Patriots and the Cowboys? I love Tom Brady. Yeah. That'd be a good one.