‘Tiger King’: Here’s Exactly Why Shaq Ended up on the Wild Documentary

If you’ve just caught on to Netflix’s new docu-series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, you might have questions about the G.W. Zoo owner/operator, Joe Exotic, and his antics. The seven-part series is a fever dream of events, from big cats to a murder-for-hire plot, and a bizarre cameo from NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal. Why was O’Neal a part of the project anyway?

Shaquille O’Neal previously appeared on ‘Joe Exotic TV’

Joe Exotic - Tiger King
Joe Exotic – Tiger King | Netflix

For those who haven’t yet witnessed the spectacle that is Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, the Netflix summary describes the series as, “A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.”

Among the many many subplots within the seven parts is of Joe Exotic’s internet show, Joe Exotic TV. The show launched via web as the G.W. Zoo owner tried to gain more fans to achieve his ultimate goal of worldwide fame.

With cameras running 24/7, nothing was off-limits for the web-based series, including a May 2014 visit from Shaquille O’Neal. The clip is a part of a montage showcasing Joe Exotic’s zoo within the documentary itself.

In the brief cameo, O’Neal is seen posing for pictures with a baby cheetah, looking at animals, and suggesting the name “Shaq” for one big cat. He posted his visit to his own Instagram page and was featured in TNT’s Inside the NBA, as shown in the docuseries.

The former NBA star is obsessed with tigers

O’Neal’s love of tigers goes back many years. In a 2001 feature via the LA Times, O’Neal ventured to the Philadelphia Zoo, explaining he never got to go as a child.

In fact, O’Neal has been outspoken for his love of the big cat in various interviews throughout his career. Page Six previously reported O’Neal purchased 10 tiger cubs that live on a Jacksonville, Florida farm.

During a recent episode on The Big Podcast with Shaq, O’Neal elaborated on his infinite love of the animal.

“I love tigers,” he said about his visit to Joe Exotic’s zoo. “We went back a couple of times. Then we went back another time and we found out [Exotic] was involved in all this stuff. Actually I stopped going, and I had no idea all that stuff was going on.”

The “stuff” O’Neal referred to is Exotic’s murder-for-hire plot against animal rights activist, Carole Baskin. Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence for the charges filed against him.

O’Neal explained his relationship with Joe Exotic

According to Exotic, O’Neal visited G.W. Zoo “11 or 12 times” throughout a decade. However, O’Neal said it was only twice with the first in 2008. Exotic also claimed the superstar “sponsored and paid for the care of five of the tigers at the zoo,” including “a white cub named Prince after the recording artist.” It’s unclear what the truth is, but Exotic only had praise for O’Neal.

“You’ll never meet a bigger, nicer guy than Shaq,” Exotic said.

Though the roadside zookeeper said he didn’t know who O’Neal was at first, he seems to have become a fan.

”Every time, he’s on this side of the world now traveling up I-35 or anywhere, he stops by and spends four or five hours here at the zoo playing with whatever animals we have,” Joe Exotic said.

However, O’Neal didn’t love all the zoo’s animals, according to Exotic.

“He’s not real fond of monkeys so we always tease him with the monkeys,” he said. “We just got in a 14-foot snake Saturday. We finally got him to hold the back end of that.”

During the same podcast, O’Neal explained his relationship with the convicted zookeeper saying, they had no relationship. It was all about the tigers. That said, he still “binge-watched” the docuseries, as most of us have. Hey — whatever gets us through the coronavirus pandemic (COVED-19), right?