NBA legend Shaq on basketball, investing, and DJing – Refresh 19 Las Vegas

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal can be funny, tell stories to inspire, and awe you. At Refresh 19 Las Vegas, Freshworks’ annual user conference, he did all that and more, including shooting some hoops with the attendees.

Shaq, our special guest at the conference, talked about a bunch of things including how he became an investor in Google, why after attaining fame as a baller he’s a disk jockey (DJ) now, and what makes him tick. 

As one of the greatest basketball players of all time and as an investor in companies like Google and Ring, Shaq has turned most things he’s touched into gold.

Here are highlights from his conversation with our founder and CEO Girish Mathrubootham.

On becoming a disk jockey after NBA stardom

I started DJing in college just as a hobby. After I retired, I didn’t have the adrenaline rush that I was used to while playing in the NBA. I went to a college and a famous DJ was playing. There were 200,000 kids and I just said, “Well, I can do this.”

It’s like customer engagement. I’ve always liked to interact with fans, especially younger fans. 

On an achievement he’s proud of

Of my many achievements, this one has nothing to do with basketball. I had promised my mom that I’d further my education. So I got my bachelor’s and then my master’s. I was the first in the family. Then my mother said, “Oh, we don’t have any doctors in the family.” And now I’ve got that. (A PhD in education)

On becoming an early investor in Apple and Google

I was always a geek. I’m very interested in technology. I want to be at the forefront always. When the iPhone was launching, Steve Jobs blocked my calls, because I’d call every day and say I know it’s not out yet but can I have it? I love technology and I love interacting with smart people and I love learning. The sky is the limit. 

Google was by accident. I was at the Four Seasons one day and there was a VC guy with his children at the table. I was playing with his kids. And he turned around and said, “I like you. I got something for you… Just really remember the name Google.” Always remember that you should invest in the future. I put in some money and one day I got a really nice hit. When I first became an investor, I wasn’t that smart because I was trying to get rich quick. But then I started doing my due diligence. I remember what Steve Jobs said: If you invest in something that’s changing people’s lives, most of them are going to be great hits. 

On one piece of advice to his younger self

Not much. I was raised by a military drill sergeant. He told me [about] honor, respect, [and to] be friendly, be giving. And everything I did…I want to be known as a nice man. I don’t care about all the championships. I want to be a nice guy.