The Sports Report: Shaquille O’Neal shows what retired athletes can do

Shaquille O'Neal attends Shaq's Fun House Super Bowl in February.
(Rick Scuteri / AP)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Samantha Masunaga: Shaq is everywhere.

Laughing it up with Charles Barkley on TNT. Serving as the post-crisis face of Papa John’s pizza. Fist pumping for Carnival Cruise Line. Hawking Epson printers, air fryers, Icy Hot, car insurance, cereal and Shaqtoberfest.

“I’ve always been a businessman who is athletic,” he said during a 2013 interview on CNBC.

There have been greats. There have been savvy athletes-turned-businesspeople. And of course, there have always been big personalities.


But none have melded it together into a multimillion-dollar, airwave-dominating, viral moment-making empire quite like Shaquille O’Neal.

The legendary NBA big man is now known to an even wider audience from the plethora of products he endorses, his basketball commentary on TNT and his extensive business portfolio, including such unrelated firms as the Majority ad agency, Ring doorbells and his own fast-food chain, Big Chicken.

“I think his brand is stronger now than it has ever been,” said Natasha Brison, an associate professor at Texas A&M who specializes in athlete branding. “He’s literally reshaped what it means to be a retired athlete.”

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From Jack Harris: It hasn’t been a typical recipe for success.


After leading the majors in scoring during their historic 111-win campaign last season, the Dodgers lost three All-Stars in free agency, then their starting shortstop to an injury in spring training.

They filled those voids with unproven rookies, established-but-aging veterans, and other low-cost additions that led to scrutiny over the winter.

Beyond their top three bats — Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Mookie Betts — almost every other hitter in their lineup has slumped through at least some stretch of the season’s first two months, leading to a long list of potentially troubling indicators:

A team batting average of .242, ranking 21st in the majors. A combined strikeout total of 507, more than all but five teams. And on most nights, a batting order filled with inconsistent producers, several of whom are flirting with the Mendoza line (a .200 batting average).

“When we put together this ballclub,” manager Dave Roberts acknowledged earlier this year, “we felt that the average, that the hit tool, was going to play a little bit more than it has.”

And yet…

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Mike Pence says baseball should apologize for ‘welcoming anti-Catholic bigots’


Alex Bregman and José Abreu had two RBIs each and Kyle Tucker added three hits to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-2 win over the Angels on Thursday night in a game during which Angels manager Phil Nevin was ejected.

The victory was the 2,126th of manager Dusty Baker’s career, moving him past Joe McCarthy into sole possession of eighth place on baseball’s all-time list.

The Angels had a shot to close the gap in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out. But Taylor Ward was called out on a low strike, bringing Nevin out of the dugout and face to face with home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater.

He was quickly ejected, but still yelled at him for a few seconds before ripping off his own cap and screaming at him some more.


From Eric Sondheimer: Pacing back and forth and moving his hands nonstop as if he were signaling jets to land on an aircraft carrier, Rams coach Sean McVay provided plenty of evidence of his well-known personality trait of being energetic and passionate while addressing more than 60 high school football coaches on Thursday at the Rams’ training headquarters in Thousand Oaks.


It was a high school coaching clinic in which nine Rams position assistants broke off to answer questions and provide individual instruction. They were almost as energetic as their head coach, a lesson from McVay that a coach’s energy can become contagious among those who work and play for you.

“The influence and the effect you can have in a positive way on these players is so tremendous,” McVay said.

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From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: When Curt Miller looked at the Sparks’ schedule, the sight of three games in the first 14 days felt perfect. It was a “golden opportunity” to fortify the first-year coach’s system early in the season.

But as injuries and illnesses piled, it proved too good to be true.

After reconfiguring the roster enough to overcome lingering injuries to guard Jasmine Thomas (knee) and forward Azurá Stevens (back), the Sparks’ roster gymnastics reached a new degree of difficulty when an illness thinned the team’s personnel to the point Lisa Leslie jokingly asked on social media if she needed to suit up for a game in Las Vegas.

Through the player carousel and canceled practice days, the Sparks (1-2) have tried to maintain an unwavering focus on their larger plan in Miller’s first season.


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From Kevin Baxter: Angel City has signed highly decorated midfielder Amandine Henry to a three-year contract. Henry, who captained France to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, is expected to join the team later this month.

“Amandine is a player who has competed at the highest and most competitive levels,” ACFC general manager Angela Hucles Mangano said in a statement. “She has led for both her club and country. Her quality of football performance and commitment to the success of our team will make her an invaluable part of our roster.”

A graduate of the prestigious Clairefontaine academy, Henry, 33, joined Lyon as a teenager and, during two stays with the club, helped it to 13 Division 1 Féminine titles, eight Coupe de France championships and seven UEFA Champions League wins. She also spent two seasons with the Portland Thorns, winning an NWSL title in 2017. After a brief spell with Paris Saint-Germain on loan, Henry returned to Lyon in 2018.

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U.S. Soccer’s Nations League roster includes Folarin Balogun’s first call-up



From Sarah Valenzuela: The Titans took batting practice at Goodwin Field on a still, cloudy day on the Cal State Fullerton campus.

The calm before the storm, Wednesday was a typical scene in preparation for an upcoming game. Except that practice represented the Titans’ final home tuneup before they were to hit the road for the Stanford Regional, the first playoff appearance for the program since 2018.

“It’s pretty surreal,” junior infielder Caden Connor said. “I mean, we’ve worked our entire time being here. It feels really good for the guys that came back, trusted the coaching staff.”

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Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were facing some questions going into their first NBA Finals, and their answers came in resounding fashion.

No, a week and a half off didn’t hurt them.

And no, the NBA’s biggest stage isn’t too big, either.

Jokic got a triple-double in his finals debut, Jamal Murray scored 26 points and the Nuggets had little trouble with the cold-shooting Miami Heat on the way to a 104-93 win in Game 1 on Thursday night.


“I think that’s what the beauty of this team is,” Murray said. “We have so many different weapons and so many different looks. You’ve got to guard everybody. ... Free-flowing, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Results, schedule
All times Pacific
NBA Finals

No. 1 Denver vs. No. 8 Miami
Game 1: at Denver 104, Miami 93
Sunday at Denver, 5 p.m., ABC
Wednesday at Miami, 5:30 p.m., ABC
Fri., June 9 at Miami, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Mon., June 12 at Denver, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Thurs., June 15 at Miami, 5:30 p.m., ABC
*Sun., June 18 at Denver, 5 p.m., ABC

*-if necessary


From Helene Elliott: The NHL’s landscape began to shift dramatically when the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks debuted as expansion teams in the 1993-94 season.

The newcomers embodied themes that would recur throughout Commissioner Gary Bettman’s tenure: attracting corporate owners — Blockbuster for the Panthers and Disney for the Ducks — and migrating toward the booming U.S. Sunbelt. Adding outposts in Anaheim, inspired by the interest Wayne Gretzky generated with the Kings, and in Florida followed trends and followed the money.

The Panthers and Ducks each paid an expansion fee of $50 million and their addition brought the NHL’s roster to 26 teams. By 2000 there were 30 teams, five times the “Original Six” lineup that existed from 1942 until 1967. Bettman moved pieces around a geographical chessboard, too, overseeing the Quebec Nordiques’ move to Denver and the Winnipeg Jets’ exodus to Arizona, where they’re still searching for stability.

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Results, schedule
All times Pacific
Stanley Cup Finals

Vegas (P1) vs. Florida (WC2)
Saturday at Vegas, 5 p.m., TNT
Monday at Vegas, 5 p.m., TNT
Thursday at Florida, 5 p.m., TNT
Sat., June 10 at Florida, 5 p.m., TNT
*Tues., June 13 at Vegas, 5 p.m., TNT
*Fri., June 16 at Florida, 5 p.m., TNT
*Mon., June 19 at Vegas, 5 p.m., TNT

*-if necessary


1896 — Hastings, ridden by H. Griffin, edges Handspring by a neck to capture the Belmont Stakes.

1908 — Royal Tourist, ridden by Eddie Dugan, posts a four-length victory over Live Wire in the Preakness Stakes.

1909 — Joe Madden, ridden by Eddie Dugan, wins the Belmont Stakes by eight lengths over Wise Mason.

1935 — Babe Ruth, 40, announces his retirement as a player.

1935 — French Championships Men’s Tennis: Englishman Fred Perry wins his only French title, beating Gottfried von Cramm of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

1942 — Red Sox star Ted Williams enlists as a US Navy aviator.

1947 — After a six-year layoff, 13-year-old Honey Cloud wins the second race at Aqueduct. His jockey, Clarence Minner, takes his first ride in 10 years.


1962 — French Championships Women’s Tennis: In an all-Australian final Margaret Smith beats doubles partner Lesley Turner 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

1985 — Nancy Lopez beats Alice Miller by eight strokes to win the LPGA championship.

1991 — Andrettis finish 1-2-3 in the Miller 200 at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway in Milwaukee. Mario Andretti finishes third, his son Michael wins the race and his nephew John finished second.

1996 — Annika Sorenstam closes with a 4-under 66 to win her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open. Sorenstam’s 8-under 272 is the best ever in the Open.

2002 — Annika Sorenstam matches the LPGA record for margin of victory in a 54-hole event while winning the inaugural Kellogg-Keebler Classic. Sorenstam finishes at 21-under 195 to win by 11 strokes.

2005 — Jockey Russell Baze records his 9,000th career victory aboard Queen of the Hunt in the eighth race at Golden Gate Fields.

2007 — Daniel Gibson scores a career-high 31 points as Cleveland beats Detroit 98-82 to advance to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers are the third team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in a conference finals, joining the 1971 Baltimore Bullets and 1993 Chicago Bulls.


2008 — Pittsburgh outlasts Detroit 4-3 in three overtimes of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. Petr Sykora scores at 9:57 of the third overtime ending the fifth-longest finals game in NHL history.

2010 — Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers loses his bid for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning on a call that first base umpire Jim Joyce later admits he blew. First baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fields Jason Donald’s grounder to his right and makes an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag. The ball is there in time, and all of Comerica Park is ready to celebrate the 3-0 win over Cleveland, until Joyce emphatically signals safe.

2011 — Dirk Nowitzki makes the tie-breaking layup with 3.6 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks roar back from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat 95-93 and tie the NBA finals at one game apiece. The Mavs outscore the Heat 22-5 down the stretch and pull off the biggest comeback win in an NBA finals since 1992.

—Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally...

Armando Galarraga’s perfect game ends with two out in ninth on blown call by umpire. Watch and listen here. Galarraga and the umpire, Jim Joyce, meet at home plate the next day. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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