Cleveland welcomed rapper-actor Shaquille O’Neal at a press conference in Independence today. It marked his first official appearance as a member of the Cavaliers, a local professional sports team that plays basketball, a sport that’s popular in Europe and select American cities.

The conference was a disappointing production with practically no theatre to it. No entrance music. No fireworks. No driving in on a diesel truck (as he has in previous welcome-to-town ceremonies). It took place at the Cavs’ Cleveland Clinic Courts practice facility, where he’ll be spending plenty of time over the next three years, rehabbing between injuries.

Between four Twitter references, the lackluster affair was limited to discussing his athletic career and prospects for earning a fifth championship ring as a member of LeBron James’ court. Said the 7-foot Shaq, “We all know it’s LeBron’s team. … I’m here, here’s the captain. I’m now in the security business. My job is to protect the king.”

And after O’Neal and some local school kids threw T-shirts into the crowd, that was it. He did not freestyle a Kobe diss. Neither Coolio nor Warren G were in attendance. He did not wear metal armor or wield a sledgehammer, as he did in the 1997 film Steel, which earned him a Razzie award nomination for worst actor (a severe step down from his promising debut alongside Nick Nolte in 1994’s Blue Chips).

Nor did Shaq address declining album sales. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) database, Shaq’s debut recording — an appearance on the Fu-Schnickens’ 1993 single “What’s Up Doc (Can We Rock?)” — went gold. As did his first two LPs. Shaq Diesel (1993) and Shaq-Fu: Da Return (’95) are certified gold, signifying shipments in excess of 500,000 each. But he hasn’t released an album since 1998’s Respect. O’Neal’s acting career has also suffered since he started concentrated on winning championships. Now that he’s here, maybe locally based ace producers the Kickdrums can light a fire under his butt before they leave for New York. — D.X. Ferris


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