From NBA to MBA: Shaq suits up for business
The basketball star goes one on one with Fortune's Brian O'Keefe.
By Brian O'Keefe, Fortune Magazine

(Fortune Magazine) -- SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, entrepreneur

In June, Shaq delivered on his promise to bring the Miami Heat its first NBA championship. He's been busy ever since. In mid-August he traveled to Beijing to sign a five-year endorsement deal with the Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning. A couple of weeks later he opened his second custom 24 Hour Fitness Shaq Sport gym in southern Florida (he has another opening near Houston later this year). Fortune's Brian O'Keefe talked to O'Neal, 34, about his business plans.

What drew you to 24 Hour Fitness?

I first fell in love with 24 Hour Fitness because, for one thing, it stays open 24 hours. I've got a lot of stuff to do during the day, so I like to go work out at night. When I was in L.A., Magic had a custom gym right around the corner from my house, and I met the CEO. I saw they didn't have franchises in Florida.

You once called yourself "the Big Aristotle." What's your business philosophy?

My business philosophy is all about honesty, integrity, and, of course, fortune.

So I guess you read Fortune?

Of course I read it. I like to keep up with who's who in the world.

Outside of basketball, most people know you as the rapper behind "Shaq-Fu: Da Return" or as the star of the movie Kazaam, but you earned an MBA from Phoenix University last year. Are you getting serious about your off-court career?

When I'm done playing, I want to be well respected in both categories--basketball and business. It's probably going to be more fitness clubs, real estate, some car dealerships. I'm just trying to maximize my potential as a person and as a player.

Another one of your nicknames is "the Diesel." With gas at $3 a gallon, maybe you should open some gas stations?

Actually, I thought about that, but there's really not a large profit margin in gas. Most of the money is made in the convenience stores. I'm looking into it. But you're right: Gas is high. I got this diesel truck--to fill it up costs me $150.

Will your deal with Li Ning make you bigger than Yao Ming in China one day?

I actually already am bigger than Yao Ming. I didn't know I was that big in China. As soon as I got off the plane, there were 20 million people waiting for me.

Your coach, Pat Riley, is kind of a guru on the corporate-speaking circuit. Do you guys ever talk business?

No, not yet. But I'm looking at going into public speaking too. The last book I read was Speak Like a CEO. I bought it in the airport in China.

Do you think of yourself as a CEO type?

Yeah, I'm a leader. Sort of a leader/one-minute manager. Praise people for a minute; punish them for a minute.  Top of page