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Shaq wants Vegas NBA expansion ‘with LeBron, or without LeBron’

Updated November 20, 2023 - 5:19 pm

Shaquille O’Neal, who has won more NBA championships (four) than drivers he can name in the F1 series (one, Lewis Hamilton) said he wants to invest in a team in Vegas.

He has said this previously and consistently. He said it again Saturday during an appearance at Sports Illustrated’s Club SI viewing party on the Strip. But this time, a twist: O’Neal said he would even join fellow NBA legend LeBron James in a Vegas expansion team.

“If there’s ever an NBA team that’s gonna to come here, I would definitely like to be involved,” Shaq said when I asked him for his Vegas-NBA forecast. “With LeBron, without LeBron, I just want to be involved.”

O’Neal splits his time between Las Vegas and Atlanta. He said last month he wants to explore an NBA expansion team in Vegas. He told me in 2021 that the league belongs in Las Vegas, at the time addressing a team relocating here.

O’Neal was on hand along with soccer legend David Beckham and reps from Authentic Brands Group, including CEO Jamie Salter, as host for the F1 party. O’Neal is an investor in the company, among his many business ventures, which now include the just-opened Cheri nightclub at Paris Las Vegas.

O’Neal said Hamilton was the only F1 driver he knew — and Shaq knows him personally — but he praised the series’ first race in Vegas.

“Las Vegas has always been the Entertainment Capital of the World and whoever brought up the idea to bring F1 here for the next 10 years, a genius move,” he said. “When I first saw cars go by Las Vegas Boulevard, I was wondering how that was going to happen, but I’m sitting over there looking at it and I think it’s going to be a very prestigious event.”

Prestige was in play to the north on race night.

Later Saturday, representatives from the group planning an NBA-style arena held their own F1 party. Oak View Group hosted a party for about 400 VIP invitees at its temporary party complex tat the front of Fashion Show mall on the Strip and Spring Mountain. Or, just off Turn 12, for race purposes. OVG Chairman and CEO Tim Leiweke and top-level exec Marc Badain and Randy Morton watched the race from the mutilevel hospitality annex.

Sphere Entertainment Group CEO Jim Dolan was also in the mix, for a time, to check out how his venue looked from the corner vantage point (dazzling, short answer).

The event was an impressive statement from OVG, attempting to bring an NBA team to its proposed $10 billion casino resort-arena concept on Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road. The arena would seat 20,000 and be on the same scale as Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, another of Leiweke’s ventures.

Leiweke was CEO of AEG when T-Mobile Arena was built. His new arena would compete with the home of the Golden Knights. A couple of takeaways after chatting with the OVG heavies: The new arena would cost more than double T-Mobil, $1 billion, compared to $375 million. And an NBA expansion team isn’t going to want to be the second tenant in any arena.

The OVG team knows how to throw a party. But its vision in Vegas is serious, believe it.

Voltaire, Kylie and Rodgers

Voltaire at The Venetian rocked on successive nights with Nile Rodgers & Chic on Wednesday and Friday, and Kylie Minogue hosting F1’s closing Amber Lounge party late Saturday. I caught the Rogers show on Friday, when he took the stage at 11 p.m., following the soaring Belle de Nuit pre-show performances. Star DJ and producer Jellybean Benitez closed the night.

It was a tough draw for that three-course experience, as the F1 crowd was still occupied with qualifying action and the room was about half-capacity. No matter. The band killed, confidently opening with “Le Freak” and “Everybody Dance” and rocking without break until 1 a.m.

Rodgers also fired up “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross; “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge: and “Like a Virgin and “Material Girl” by Madonna.

We’d like to see Rodgers back, in that dazzling room. He has a show that fits the club’s … Chic aesthetic.

Green Guy

Guy Laliberte was dressed in colorful green-red-yellow hues and grinning with great mischief as he ventured to the DJ booth late Saturday at his Froogy Camp dwelling at Resorts World. Laliberte and his silly-brilliant crew took over the former Enchant and Transfix parcel during F1.

Seventeen RVs painted with varying froogy designs were parked at the place. About a thousand folks descended on the party, where LED-trimmed bicycles and tricycles, cacti and day-glow artwork campfires hung about.

Laliberte keeps saying he wants to bring something “colorful” back to Las Vegas. We’ll let this roll out at its own rhythm. But we were happy to see such Cirque du Soleil execs as Daniel Lamarre and Stéphane Lefebvre joining the frivolity.

We’re not implying a formal partnership. But we do sense Laliberte will co-exist in Vegas, soon, with the company he created.

Cool Hang Alert

A show that merits greater attention here, there and everywhere is “Michael Orland & Friends”open-mic night at Myron’s at 7 p.m. Monday. Sing, or sit back and judge, as the “American Idol” pianist and vocal coach hosts an live singing competition. The top prize is a $200 gift card. Go to TheSmithCenter.com for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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