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Shaq Retires Via Tweet; Here's How He Got On Twitter

His retirement announcement via tweet is the perfect time for us to reflect back on the small role we played in helping get Shaq on Twitter while he was a member of the Phoenix Suns in 2008.

An early self portrait sent via Twitter by Shaquille O'Neal while a member of the Phoenix Sun. Shaq used Twitter to notify his fans that he was retiring from the NBA.
An early self portrait sent via Twitter by Shaquille O'Neal while a member of the Phoenix Sun. Shaq used Twitter to notify his fans that he was retiring from the NBA.

In honor of Shaq's retirement tweet, we are re-publishing this story which originally aired in March, 2009. It's the story of a how one the NBA's greatest players become a social media star and our small role in the process.

It might be hard to believe now that he has over 3.8 million followers on Twitter, but there was a time when the only Big Tweeter was a Big Fake.


Sit back, enjoy an ice cream cone, and read about how Shaquille O'Neal ended up on Twitter.

Shaq stopped off for an ice cream today.

Chances are you knew that already because the Big Brain Freeze announced it ahead of time to over 351,285 351,596 356,644 people following him on twitter.

Can I plaese cheat on my diet and go to dairy. Queen pls pls pls

I will admit this entire twitter thing causes me great joy since we played a fairly significant role in the chain of events that lead to The Big Tweet.

For those new to these parts, here's how it went down:

July 2008

Phoenix Stan* is planning his trip to the Las Vegas Summer League and discovered that he can't update this blog via Blackberry so on a whim (which is pretty much how that idiot does everything) creates a twitter account.

July 2008, an early tweet:

Robin Lopez screaming in dudes face on D. Suns fans are going to love this guy

At that point there was pretty much no one in the NBA world on twitter and certainly not everyone on twitter like there is today.

November 11, 2008

Flash forward to early in the season when we discovered what appeared to be Shaq on twitter.

There were some questionable tweets but since the Shaq feed was being "pimped" by a Suns employee (who it turns out was also duped) it seemed fair to think it was The Big Fella himself.

Or, an even more likely scenario (straight from marketing-conspiracy paranoid land) a corporate Sock Puppet was using Shaq's celebrity to promote a certain flavored water beverage that Shaq was in fact a spokesperson for.

This promoted intense righteous indignation on the part of Mr. Phoenix Stan who lashed out this way (what a jerk ass):

The real shame is that the Suns organization is threatening its credibility by promoting this sponsor's impersonation of one of its players in a way that does impact and disrespect the game. All joking aside. That's a load of stinky crap.

November 19, 2008

Some back and forth ensued with Shaq's representatives and the Suns employee, (aka @phoenixsunsgirl who it turns out is totally rad) and next thing you know the fake Shaq is unmasked and @The_Real_Shaq is born. There is of course a lot more to the story here but those involved will have to explain their roles more fully.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, they moved fast and seized the opportunity to use this new technology to connect the Biggest Personality in the game with his fans.

Ed Note: Adding in this bit of the story where Shaq's people at Sports Media Challenge describe what happened:

I noticed your commentary about Shaq's account on Twitter. I work for a Sports Marketing/PR company based in Charlotte, NC. We have partnered with Shaq to build his social media program in an effort to build out his brand even more.

Our online media monitoring tool, Buzz Manager, picked up online conversation about a Shaq twitter feed. The "ShaquilleONeal" account isn't actually Shaq. Since finding out that somebody is impersonating him, Shaq has taken it upon himself to create a Twitter account and become active in this online space. His Twitter name is "The_Real_Shaq."

Shaq reached 10,000 followers in a matter of hours after the news of his real tweets broke and has now reached epic status with over 350,000 people following his every move from ice cream to hamburgers.

January 2009

The Suns jump in with both feet and organize the first ever Tweetup Event.

In the spirit of unity that is twitter, @NotShaqONeal and @The_Real_Shaq showed there were no hard feels as they hugged it out after the game.

March 2009

Now, even Suns head coach @AlvinGentry is on twitter. @The_Real_Nash is on twitter. Half of the Suns organization is on twitter.

Pretty much everyone (except Jerry Sloan) is on twitter.

We've come so far, so fast that now a player even got  in trouble for tweeting during half time! How dare he pick up his cell phone and type in 140 characters.

It has been a fun ride and we are glad that we played a small part in helping bring Shaq to twitter and therefore twitter to the world.

Please stop throwing eggs at your monitor now.


We hope you enjoyed that trip down memory lane through a bit of social media history.

* "Phoenix Stan" was the former online alias for your humble host.