Seven money lessons from Shaquille O’Neal

The famed NBA star recently shared some pearls of wisdom about business, finances and being a parent

About a month ago I attended QuickBooks Connect, a conference in San Jose put on by accounting software maker Intuit. The final keynote address was by none other than Shaquille O’Neal, the 7-foot 325-pound basketball star who went from playing in the NBA to getting his MBA. Now an entrepreneur and investor with a net worth of US$400 million, Shaq had some valuable advice about money and business that is worth sharing with kids and adults alike:

Be authentic. O’Neal will only endorse products he uses and believes in — he even turned down sponsorships with Wheaties three times because he didn’t like the cereal. “I’m a Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops kind of guy. I’ve never eaten Wheaties in my life,” he said. That’s why he decided to represent Fruity Pebbles instead.

There are no shortcuts. Shaq worked hard for his considerable wealth, not only in the NBA but also in school — earning a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Education in human resource development. He has the same expectations for his son, now in college, telling him: “Listen son. We’re not rich. I am. You still need to go to school and work hard.”

Laughter pays. It not only relieves stress and makes you feel good, it’s also good business. “My best form of marketing is to make people laugh,” he told the crowd, who he continually had in stitches. “I want to do something funny and make you remember it.”

Rely on your team. When Shaq opened his investment offices, he hired a staff of 30 who collectively decide what to invest in. “I have a team of people smarter than me because I know the importance of teamwork,” he said. “No one person can win a championship alone. Listen to your teammates, don’t always do things based on money and learn from your mistakes.”

Invest in game changers. “If you invest in something that will change people’s lives, it’ll probably be a good investment,” says O’Neal. Case in point: he was an early investor in a little search engine called Google.

Give back. When he was a kid, Shaq got an unexpected gift — a basketball autographed by Dr. J. He never forgot that moment and, when he hit it big, he went to his local Toys“R”Us in Orlando, Florida, to buy and distribute toys to local underprivileged children on Christmas morning. He now has a more formal arrangement with the company, in which U.S. customers can buy a toy online from the Great Big Shaq-A-Claus Wish List and have it sent directly to the Toys for Tots charity for distribution.

Be thankful. A little appreciation goes a long way. And, as Shaq says, it could always be worse. “I learned not to complain a long time ago. I’m always thankful, always respectful. I just want to set a good example for my children — for all kids — and be remembered as a nice guy.

Keep the conversation going

What’s the best business or financial advice you ever received?  Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.