NBA legend and pop culture icon Shaquille O’Neal has accepted an invitation to be made a Samoan chief (matai) and has plans to set up a basketball pathway for Samoan youth when he travels to the country later this year
O’Neal will be visiting the country in May as a guest of honour for the 2023 Samoa games and will take on the matai title from the village of Leulumoega.
Shaq, AKA Diesel, accepted the invitation from Tumanuavo Evile Falefatu, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Airport Authority. Falefatu visited Shaq’s Atlanta mansion in December last year, gifting him traditional Samoan items.
“The legend Shaquille O’Neal with his to’oto’o (staff), fue (fly whisk), and ula fala (Samoan Necklace),” Falefatu wrote in a Facebook post.
“He will become a chief of LeLeulumoega Village next year. He is coming home.”
Samoan Radio station Eye Spy confirmed the former Lakers legend has agreed to head over and plans to share some words of wisdom and maybe even get involved in the games.
“We really look forward to gracing the occasion,” Shaq’s team said. “Especially for the fact that young athletes will be there to receive inspirational words from the one and only Shaquille O’Neal and members of his sporting crew.”
“However, we are really looking forward to domination of the event,” they added.
Dominating jokes aside, Falefatu says that Shaq plans on setting a system up for Samoan youth to play basketball and receive education in the US, which would be awesome.
“The main purpose of his trip is to become a guest of honour for the Samoa Games 2023,” he told Samoan Global News.
“At the same time, he will provide an opportunity to conduct basketball clinics but most importantly to create a pathway for our youth to play basketball in the US and pursue educational studies.”