The smirk on Mitch Kupchak’s face widened at the mere mention of his name.
Safe to say Kupchak’s admission that “it’s a little surprising” that Shaquille O’Neal became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings seems a bit understated. That’s because O’Neal spent part of his eight years with the Lakers dismissively calling the Sacramento franchise the “Queens” before eliminating them from the 2000 to 2002 NBA playoffs en route to three championships.
“I think it’s great,” Kupchak said Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I think the ownership there has a lot of energy and excitement and made some changes.”
Nearly a decade after both dismissing and mandhandling the Sacramento Kings, Shaquille O’Neal will now have a minority ownership stake in the franchise.
The involvement from the former Lakers center comes on the heels of the Maloof family selling the Kings franchise in May to Vivek Ranadive. For O’Neal, it brings things back full circle after once referring to the Kings as the “Queens” and eliminating them in the 2000-2002 NBA playoffs.
“(The Lakers and Kings) did have some great battles, and fans need to understand that those (‘Sacramento Queens’) comments that I made and all that stuff, it was for them,” O’Neal told USA Today’s Sam Amick. “I’ve always been an expert at marketing, so a Laker-vs. Sacramento Kings, I wanted it to be the most watched game ever.
“But right now, (the Kings are) down, and they have new ownership, and we’re going to bring it back up. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be a destination place that people want to see.”
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org