As one of the most iconic professional basketball players of our generation, Shaquille O’Neal has managed to keep himself in the public eye since retiring from the NBA three years ago.
O’Neal closed out Sunday’s programming at South by Southwest Interactive armed with knowledge about a topic many might not directly associate him with—wearable technology. Moderator Rick Valencia, vice president of Qualcomm, questioned O’Neal about the role technology plays in his life, the importance of maintaining fitness and building his brand.
With more than 8 million Twitter followers, O’Neal has an appeal on social media that keeps his fans coming back for more. Dripping in diamonds on the SXSW stage, O’Neal discussed his formula for pushing content out to the public.
“Sixty percent (of my social media posts) will make you laugh, 30 percent is to inspire and 10 percent is to sell stuff,” O’Neal said. “I see a lot of superstars that brag a lot, and I don’t want to do that.”
Since retiring from the NBA, O’Neal said he’s seen a significant change in his level of physical activity. Rather than focusing on lifting “a million” pounds, O’Neal encourages people to exercise enough to make their heart rate increase, even simply by walking around the block each day. Donning a pace and calorie tracker device called Fitbit, O’Neal aims to reach 10 thousand steps each day or he feels as if he’s not doing “his job.”
“It’s tough. I played 20 years and I was just tired,” O’Neal said. “One day I looked in the mirror and my six pack turned into a four pack and a 2.8 pack and then into a chubby belly.”
While growing up, O’Neal developed a love for the TV show “The Jetsons” and fell in love with futuristic devices. The “nerds” and “geeks” at his high school once intimidated him, but he learned technology was “dummy-proof” once he received tutoring by the “nerdiest guy in school.” With his kids today, O’Neal said he teaches them to be innovative, physically fit and lets them interact with devices such as Google Glass.
“Kids are not as active as they were when you (Valencia) and I were growing up,” O’Neal said. “To keep kids interested in physical fitness, we need to keep the message simple and put it into language they understand.”
There is a trend of wearable devices becoming smaller, less expensive and able to track more variables over time, Valencia said. For those with diabetes, some companies are working on technologies to measure insulin and glucose levels with non-invasive approaches, which Valencia described as “the holy grail.”
“I’m sure there will be a guy one day that will have a wearable that if you’re at 88 or 87 degrees (for lining up a free throw) it’ll beep to let you know when you should shoot,” O’Neal said. “Technology goes everywhere. I wish we had that when I was playing.”
Regarding his brand, O’Neal’s self-described success for owning a business is to “hire people smarter than you.” As for O’Neal’s next business venture, he’s got his eyes on purchasing a fitness franchise.