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Shaquille O'Neal Visits Joe Exotic's Zoo In 'Tiger King' — But Why?

The seconds-long cameo of Shaquille O'Neal shows how Joe Exotic tried to link his zoo to the rich and famous.

By Connor Mannion
Shaquille Oneal G

During a brief montage showing how celebrities interact with exotic animals like tigers, viewers of the new Netflix docuseries "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" about Joe Exotic may be surprised to learn the bombastic zookeeper once hosted NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal at his park. 

The brief segment shows O'Neal wandering around the park with Exotic and even holding up a baby cheetah for a photo. He is also seen touting his visit to the zoo in a clip from TNT’s "Inside the NBA" shown in the docuseries.

O'Neal discussed his relationship with Exotic on an episode of his podcast "The Big Podcast with Shaq," published this week. He explained although he visited the zoo a number of times, he had no real relationship with Exotic himself.

"I love tigers," O'Neal said on the podcast, explaining he went to visit the zoo while he was in Oklahoma for a game. "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."

O'Neal also praised "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" and said he had already "binge-watched" the series.

A clip from Exotic's YouTube channel published in 2014 touts O'Neal's visit to the exotic animal park. In the video, O'Neal suggests naming one of the big cats after himself and poses for pictures. A 2014 picture of Exotic and O'Neal is also available on the zoo's now-defunct Instagram page

The NBA star visited the zoo on a number of other occasions, as he explained in the podcast. A 2016 visit was documented by local news outlet KXII.

"All the animals you want to see. Tigers, ligers, little ligers, lions," O'Neal told the outlet at the time. "They even got chickens and roosters."

He even jokingly endorsed Exotic's ultimately doomed bid for the presidency.

"This is Senator Shaquille O'Neal, and I endorse Joe Exotic for President," he said.

Exotic told the outlet at the time that he had first met O'Neal in about 2008 and he had visited the zoo a number of times, claiming O'Neal sponsored and paid for the care of five of the tigers at the zoo, according to KXII.

O'Neal's love of tigers continues: He bought 10 tiger cubs that lived on a farm in Jacksonville, Florida, according to Page Six. The tigers were reportedly cared for by a man known only as "Tiger Dave."

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