Business mogul and former Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal makes a brief but memorable appearance in the new Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
Some fans are asking why, and in his podcast, the Big Man explains his appearance in the film, and his love of big cats.
"Speaking of Netflix, have you seen the show Tiger King?" O'Neal asked, about four minutes into "The Big Podcast with Shaq," which was released on March 25.
"Let me clear up myself right now. I love tigers, 'kay? Especially white ones. I love animals," he continued.
"So, I forgot what year it was, but Dallas was playing OKC. So instead of flying back and forth, me and Alex, we get on the 'Shaq Bus.' So on the way, we see a sign that says 'tiger sanctuary.' So we go in there, and it's a beautiful place, and the character that was there was 'Exotic Joe.'"
O'Neal is talking, of course, about Joe Exotic, the "Tiger King" himself, whose birth name was Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, and is now legally known as Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, his married name from two of his husbands, also seen in the film.
O'Neal continued his story, "and we're there, and I dropped some donation for the tigers' foods and all that, we takes pictures with tigers, we been back a couple times. Then we get back another time, find out that he's involved with all this stuff, and then actually I stopped going."
"But I had no idea that stuff was going on," he said. "It's actually a really good documentary, I binge-watched the documentary."
"Will this paint you in a bad light, what is in that documentary?" asks co-host John Kincade.
"There's no such thing as a bad light, Joe, because people that know me know that I am righteous. I don't harm tigers. Love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time," O'Neal said, before getting specific about his own ownership of big cats.
"Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers and, listen, people are gonna make their own opinion but again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy, not my friend, don't know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on."
The documentary series was released on March 20, and the Tiger King news beat has been rapid-fire ever since. Even though Exotic's Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is in Oklahoma, the Netflix flick continues to make big waves in Florida, as the Hillsborough County sheriff now says he gets "six tips a day" based on the homicide cold case featured in the film.
O'Neal also made an appearance in Joe Exotic's web series, called "Joe Exotic TV," where Exotic tells O'Neal about the white tiger cub he's playing with, "They got puppy teeth, it's just sharp, they don't bite hard, it's just sharp."
In Shaq's podcast, Kincade asked O'Neal why he loves white tigers so much."Because they're rare and they're really beautiful," he replied. "Mike Tyson has a couple white tigers, Siegfried & Roy let me see their white tigers. So listen, I love tigers and I love cats and I will continue to go to people's sanctuaries and and farms and look at their cats. That's not going to stop me, I love cats."
"You've been tied to many a cat in your day," responded Kincade. "You're quite addicted to cats."
"The key word is addict-ed," responded O'Neal, stressing the past tense.That may be true, but Shaq has owned his share of big cats in the past, and likely still does, even if they're not at his houses. He shared in 2015 that he owned two white tigers, purchased as cubs ten years earlier, that now live on a farm in Jacksonville, cared for by a man known as "Tiger Dave."
"I bought two white tigers who almost killed me," he was quoted saying at the time.
After about four minutes of talking about the film on the podcast, the subject was over, and the show continued on with other topics.
This article was originally published by our sister paper Orlando Weekly.
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