Literally and figuratively, Shaquille O'Neal is larger than life.
The 7-foot-1 future Hall of Famer, who retired after the 2011 NBA season, has managed to maintain and convert his high profile image into a considerable fortune. According to a recent New York Times story, O'Neal took in $21 million last year thanks to his business deals and work on TV. That would mean O'Neal was paid more by endorsers than Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose will make this year in salary.
In fact, only five NBA players will make more than $21 million in salary for the 2014-15 season: Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
When it comes to endorsement money, which is even harder to parlay into a fortune, O'Neal bested every NBA player except LeBron James, Bryant and Derrick Rose.
So, how does O'Neal manage to keep his fortune alive? Through TV, movies and more business deals than most people can wrap their minds around.
In the past year O'Neal appeared regularly on TNT's "Inside the NBA" as well as in two films, Blended and The Lego Movie. He's also maintained a men's jewelry line at Zales, a sneaker line at J. C. Penney and a suit line at Macy's (in case anyone was wondering, O'Neal himself wears a size 60XL).
Scott Cacciola of the New York Times recently traveled to Atlanta to attend the Shaq Summit, a gathering of all of O'Neal's business enterprises. According to Cacciola, 19 companies attended the event.
"You can only maintain visibility with young people for so long," Jim Andrews, senior vice president of the sponsorship and consulting research firm IEG, told Cacciola. "But of most retired athletes, he probably has the best shot of maintaining that sort of relevance because of his personality, and his willingness and ability to do TV shows."
Always known for his humor and unique insight during his playing days, O'Neal has built an enormous following on social media. His Twitter account was the first to be verified and his 8.8 million followers on Twitter makes him one of the most followed athletes in the world. That enormous platform has advertisers drooling. Here are some examples of how O'Neal uses Twitter to promote products:
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) October 13, 2014
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) September 12, 2014
Win a 3-night stay at the Pinehurst Resort Carolina Hotel! Buy your ticket today at http://t.co/zizudIBX4m.
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) August 26, 2014
Unlike some former professional athletes, O'Neal is also savvy with how he spends his money. Despite what some may remember from his episode of MTV Cribs, O'Neal is actually quite frugal. Even with an estimated net worth around $250 million, O'Neal "only" spent $235,000 on a 2012 housing purchase.
According to Forbes, the only retirees of Big Four sports that make more per year than O'Neal are Magic Johnson ($22 million) and Michael Jordan ($90 million).