Shaquille O'Neal was larger than life not only on the court, but in the marketing world.
Over the course of his 19-year career, he worked with more than 10 brands, including Reebok, Pepsi, Nestle, Radio Shack, IcyHot, Oreo, Comcast , Taco Bell , Amway, Burger King, Vitaminwater , 24-Hour Fitness and Swatch.
After he announced his retirement, I called up Leonard Armato, who represented Shaq from his rookie year in 1993 through 2000 and Perry Rogers, who has represented him since then, to talk about some of his greatest marketing moments.
On Shaq Being Unique...
Armato: "He was really the first athlete who completely embraced the convergence of sports and entertainment. I called him a spontaneous, combustible entertainment vehicle. We never knew where he was going on some things, but it was going to be good."
On His Appeal...
Armato: "When he was a rookie, there were two battles for him -- the cola wars and the shoe wars. Coke fought hard for him, but Pepsi ultimately won. The first commercial he did was a parody of the Mean Joe Greene Coke spot, where he gave a little boy in the playground a Pepsi."
(Click here to see the spot)
Armato: "Every shoe company romanced him, but it ultimately came down to Nike and Reebok. When he came to the Reebok campus, all their employees were wearing "We Want Shaq" shirts. He said, "Wow, they really want me." At the time, Reebok had a lot of momentum and he was their man man. He traveled all over the world with them."
Rogers: "The theory was that a big man couldn't sell shoes. They were wrong. The right athlete, whether he is big or small, can sell shoes."
On His Dunkman Line...
Rogers: "The first time we met in 2001, he told me, 'Don't try to go to Nike or Adidas.' It was important for him to be able to take his brand and make a low cost shoe ($19 to $39). Thanks to partners like Payless and JC Penney, we've sold over 100 million pairs."
On The Most Popular Item Shaq Signed...
Armato: "Had to be his size 23 shoes. Those would sell at every auction."
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