“If I marry a Queen, will I be a King?” jokes icon Shaquille O’ Neal. To many, he’s already a king. He is one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA. He’s now the voice of his animated self in The Lego Movie, The Simpsons and will soon be seen in 2019’s What Men Want, a remake of the 2000 hit What Women Want.
For now, Shaq is here to talk about getting into the producer’s chair for Killer Bees. An inspiring look at an African-American basketball team in the Hamptons.
Having never personally been there, the film provides an inspiring insight to the flipside of what we know about the Hamptons — that rich, sandy, celebrity, expensive getaway, a few hours outside New York, where the rich and famous go to spend their summers.
Killer Bees looks at the Bridgehampton basketball players who want to prove to the elite and wealthy why they are important and why they matter in the community where affordable housing has become a rare commodity and the wealthy question the need for public schools. Killer Bees looks at the contrast and the fighting spirit of these kids who want to be the best and do the best. It’s a fascinating and hopeful look.
I’m sure you get pitched a lot of stories for basketball and sports, but what was it in particular about this one that made you say yes?
It was basketball related and of course, I love that. The basketball team was very similar to my high school basketball team. It was respected within the community. The coaches and that alcohol problem, I had similar situations that I could relate to. I had no idea though that there was a whole other side to the Hamptons that was not rich.
If I had never seen the documentary, I would never have known. How much time did you spend up there to see this “new” side?
I rented a house for a week and met the players. I got to see what everyone was talking about and what they had to say. Now, they’re winning. I think if they have a few losing seasons, but that’s okay. The thing is, you can get one powerful aristocrat who thinks they can get a lot from the land and all that BS.
I saw both sides. I hung out with them. I shot some hoops with them. I got to meet the community. It’s what I do in real-life. I live on one side, but I go to the other and meet the children and speak to them.
Were they receptive to the documentary idea?
The two producers brought me on board to help raise the awareness, and as a producer, I had my say here and there, but my job was to help raise awareness to it and this team.
How did that experience change you?
I go through it wherever I’ve made an impact. But it changed me because it was something I didn’t know. I feel if I had gone up there earlier I would have known about it and we wouldn’t be having the conversation about them closing the school out.
I’ve been going there for twenty-five years and didn’t know about it.
I first went in 1990. A friend of a friend knew Leonardo Di Caprio and we went to the most amazing party. I’ve been going every year. When I was introduced to the film, my reaction was, “What do you mean this is the Hamptons? I’ve been there twenty years in a row and I’ve never seen this.” I went back up and thought, Wow. They’re dealing with developers who are going into that area to redevelop and they do what they do to every other area and make a huge profit.
What happens next? With documentaries, there’s always that curiosity, especially with a story like this.
The directors actually live there. I’ve been talking to the head coach. I think of the players transferred to LSU so I’ll be seeing them.
Athlete, musician, philanthropist, and now a producer. What was it like to be on that side and how did it compare to sports?
I actually went to a small school. We had a lot of support from friends, family and the community. So, that really resonated with me. I was really inquisitive to know more about the side of the Hamptons that I didn’t know about. I like not knowing stuff and then I get into it.
How has life been since you retired?
I have a life that I never complain about. [laughs].
What’s next for you, Shaq?
I’m going to continue to make men and women smile. I’m going to help them have fun and help them relieve stress whether it’s for a minute, a second or a few hours. This martian wants to better life for the humanity of the earthlings.
Who are some players that stick out for you?
My fave player is Steph Curry. He’s the one guy that gives little guys confidence. Anybody can play the sport. I’ve seen a lot of little guys play the sport and he’s dominating. I see a lot of little kids emulating him. I used to see big kids trying to emulate me and now I’m seeing small kids emulate him trying to be like him.
I need to get behind a team.
You’re not missing anything. [laughs]
What are you hoping people take from Killer Bees?
I hope the stories will touch people. The one with the coach being a great player. I hear that in every neighborhood. He was never able to make it but he came back and overcame adversity in that. I hear stories like that and it’s a great thing to hear. I hope it inspires people.