Could Shaquille O’Neal Help Make the 2020 Olympia the Biggest Yet?

by Matt Weik

The 2019 Mr. Olympia competition exploded – despite what seemed like insurmountable odds. In 2019 we didn’t see Phil Heath, Shawn Rhoden, Flex Lewis, Shawn Rhoden, or Big Ramy, yet they sold out the arena. I’m not sure what magic Dan Solomon brought to the show but I’m going to hire him to go over to my bank and do the same magic with my accounts. And as if things couldn’t get any bigger, Dan brings the biggest shock to the 2020 Mr. Olympia in the shape of a 7’1”, 324-pound NBA Hall of Famer – Shaquille O’Neal, who will be the 2020 Honorary Olympia Weekend Ambassador.

Can You Dig It?

You can enter all of the memes and gifs of Shaquille O’Neal yelling, “Can you dig it?!” you want here. But the fact is, Shaq is no joke. He’s a mountain of a man who draws attention anywhere he goes [enter joke about his height]. There is even a viral video of him rolling up with police to a bunch of kids playing basketball in the street and offering them $100 each if they could make a free throw. Before he left, he gathered all of the kids together and told them that they can be whatever they want to be so long as they are respectful and are a leader. A memory I’m sure none of them will ever forget.

Last year we saw one of the greatest bodybuilders to ever walk on stage, Jay Cutler, as the 2019 Honorary Olympia Weekend Ambassador. I’m a huge fan of Jay, as are many others and it’s cool to see the torch being handed off to another “giant.”

Why Shaquille O’Neal?

The Mr. Olympia Weekend brings out the best of the best in the fitness and bodybuilding world. It’s where athletes from around the globe come to compete for the most prestigious trophies. The Mr. Olympia is considered the Super Bowl of our industry and who better to come be a part than Shaq?

Dan Solomon was quoted saying, “In recent years, Shaq has become an enthusiastic supporter of Olympia Weekend.  He follows the bodybuilding scene with the same authenticity and passion that has made him one of today’s most sought after product endorsers and a powerhouse in the world of business and entertainment.  Shaq was in attendance at last year’s Olympia and his relationship with the fitness community continues to evolve.”

If you follow Shaq on social media, he recently posted a video of himself taking his shirt off and hitting some bodybuilding poses. This caused quite a stir and people from all over were left scratching their head as to what it all meant. Now we know.

But let’s be honest. Other than Kobe Bryant and Charles Barkley, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Shaq (that’s a joke – sort of)? The man is hilarious and unless you’re driving to the hoop in an attempt to score on him or refused to give him the ball in the paint, he’s probably going to be super nice to you. And 13.9 million followers on Instagram would probably tend to agree. This brings up our next point – his reach (and not just due to his long arms).

It doesn’t matter what social media platform you look at, Shaquille O’Neal has a gigantic following. Imagine what 13.9 million extra eyeballs on the Mr. Olympia Weekend could do for the show. If Shaq were to start posting about the Olympia Weekend and drawing attention, they may completely sell out of tickets before the Arnold is even here. And I fully believe that Dan Solomon, the IFBB, and everyone else involved with the Mr. Olympia Weekend is anxious for Shaq to start making some noise on social about his role this year.

On top of his reach, the Mr. Olympia is trying to reach new audiences. When you look at the NBA from a global standpoint, there are more than 150 million followers. Even if one percent of the followers get interested in bodybuilding, that’s 1.5 million new eyeballs on the sport. Do I think that’s a realistic number? No. But even if that number is 100,000 it’s going to help continue to build the Mr. Olympia brand as well as the sport of fitness and bodybuilding.

More Celebrities to Come

I believe having a big-name celebrity as the Olympia Weekend Ambassador each year is going to be a play the Olympia makes every year. And it makes perfect sense – why not leverage a big-name celebrity to help bring awareness not only to the sport but to the show?

If I were to guess, the celebrities they choose will have something to do with fitness, health, or sports. For instance, they aren’t going to ask Jonah Hill to come be the Olympia Weekend Ambassador (at least I would hope not).

When looking at some of the messages I received on social media from my announcement of Shaquille O’Neal, many people asked me, “Why Shaq? What does he bring to the table for the sport of bodybuilding?” I’ve explained what I laid out above and I, personally, believe this is a great move by Dan Solomon and the Olympia team.

It’s going to be an exciting year for bodybuilding and I can’t wait to see what tricks Dan Solomon has up his sleeves for the 2020 Olympia and if they are going to have Shaq get up on stage and talk for a little. Only time will tell, but if you haven’t already booked your trip to Vegas, this year is going to be something special so buy your tickets early and get yourself a front-row seat.