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Volume 24 No. 116

People and Pop Culture

Lakers Owner JERRY BUSS has “an undisclosed form of cancer and is in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,” according to sources cited by Bresnahan & Rohlin of the L.A. TIMES. Buss’ son and Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel JIM BUSS on Thursday said, "He's doing fine. We just aren't going to make any comments on it. We've been dealing with this." Buss has “not attended any games this season” and maintained an “extremely low public profile last year.” Current and former Lakers players KOBE BRYANT, PAU GASOL, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, MAGIC JOHNSON and KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR “have visited Buss at various stages since finding out about his condition, which was diagnosed at an unknown point last year.” Buss has been in the hospital “numerous times the last two years.” Buss over the years “has gradually handed more power” to Jim and his daughter, Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations JEANIE BUSS (L.A. TIMES, 2/15). In L.A., Mark Medina notes Buss before his recent health issues was “still involved in the decision-making processes for the Lakers.” He was “strongly in favor of the Lakers hiring MIKE D'ANTONI” as coach. D'Antoni said that he has “never met Buss in person.” But he added, "Everybody knows he's laid the foundation for a lot of years. This is the best franchise in the NBA. He means a lot" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/15). AEG President & CEO TIM LEIWEKE said, "He's been a good, kind, generous friend. We feel for him as a partner and friend and we're praying for him." Former NHL Kings Owner BRUCE MCNALL said, "He's what a great owner should be. I tried to be the model he set, to a fault in my case. It's really amazing what he's done for the city. Nothing less than amazing" (L.A. TIMES, 2/15).

TNT NBA analyst SHAQUILLE O'NEAL called it quits on his playing career following the '10-11 season and headed straight for the broadcast booth. The future Basketball HOFer joined ERNIE JOHNSON, KENNY SMITH and CHARLES BARKLEY on TNT's “Inside the NBA” studio show. Ahead of NBA All-Star weekend in Houston, O’Neal took some time to chat about enjoying his new career, marketing strategies and NBA ownership aspirations down the road.

Q: How have you enjoyed life in the post-NBA playing career?
O’Neal: I’m loving it. Just been working as hard as I can, having fun and trying to stay out of trouble. Working here with TNT has been a lot of fun -- I really enjoy it. Getting to work with Kenny and Chuck is great.

Q: Is broadcasting something you thought you would get into once your playing career was over?
O’Neal: Yes and no, I guess. I never thought I would do it but when the opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I thought it would be a good chance to come on, share my experiences and talk about what I know about the game.

Q: Is there a broadcaster or analyst you look to as a model?
O’Neal: Not really. At this point I’m kind of an amateur, but I’m getting better. Right now I’m still trying to figure out kind of what my style is, and I know I have to get better. But when it’s all said and done, I know I will be one of the best. I’m not messing around.

Q: Is it hard to get a word in being on the same set with Barkley?
O’Neal: No, not really. The great thing about our show is that we have a lot of good entertainment in the show, too. So we have a good time and talk about the game. I think if it was more of a serious show then I probably wouldn’t fit. But they do a lot of stuff that makes people laugh; that’s a good fit for me. The show really allows me to be myself. TNT is a very beautiful company, they let us do what we want to do and show love for all the ex-players. It’s fun.

Q: How was the response to your commercial for the '12 Buick LaCrosse?
O’Neal: We got a really good response. It was written by me and I added my own little touch at the end. I think people like when I do spots. I like to do mostly humorous spots because I want it to be something that people are going to remember. If you can remember something humorous in a spot, like me pointing my finger in the Buick commercial, then I think I’ve done my job. Rather than just pushing a product in someone’s face, I want them to enjoy it.

Q: What’s been your marketing strategy since your career ended to keep your brand going strong?
O’Neal: My strategy has always been about 60% humor. I think what’s keeping me alive is that image is reality. It’s about realness.

Q: You have mentioned in the past that you might be interested in ownership down the road. Is that still on your radar? If so, what type of ownership group are you looking at?
O’Neal: Yes, we’re looking at some teams. In a perfect world, we want to bring a team back to New Jersey. That’s our first option. We’re not really locked into that, but that would be the first option in a perfect world. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll move on to something else. I’m in a group -- a big group.

Woodbine Entertainment Group has announced “more than 100 layoffs following a recent secret agreement" with the province of Ontario. Woodbine CEO NICK EAVES said that the layoffs, “about 25 per cent of salaried positions, were necessary after coming to terms on a confidential two-year deal for transitional funding -- aimed at softening the blow from the loss of the lucrative slots-at-racetracks program.” Consiglio noted the layoffs “include top-level” execs such as VP/Standardbred Racing BRUCE MURRAY and VP/Strategic Initiatives ANDREW MACDONALD. VP/Communications GLENN CROUTER, who served in that position for 15 years, “retired and accepted a part-time, two-year contract in place of his full-time gig” (, 2/13).

EXECS: The Univ. of Arkansas named Razorback Foundation Exec Dir CHRIS WYRICK Vice Chancellor for Univ. Advancement (Arkansas)….USA Today named former Washington Post Online Sports Producer JIMMY HASCUP Digital Producer/Sports (THE DAILY).

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In Daytona Beach, Brent Woronoff notes  the six-episode "What Would RYAN LOCHTE Do?" reality show will debut April 21 on E! Lochte said of the filming, "I didn't think it was going to be this tiring. It is, it's draining. I have to shoot every day, eight hours a day. It's just a constant thing. I don't really get a break.'' Lochte said that he is "glad he took on the project." It is part of his "personal mission to use himself as a conduit to promote the sport of swimming." Lochte: "It gets frustrating at times, because you've got to do retakes a lot. ... It's not like a scripted thing. It's not like a TV show where you have lines. It's pretty much you be yourself" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/15).

HEADING TO THE POLLS: Chicago Magazine's Power 100 includes Bulls and White Sox Chair JERRY REINSDORF, Blackhawks Owner ROCKY WIRTZ, Big Ten Commissioner JIM DELANY, Cubs Chair TOM RICKETTS, Cubs President of Baseball Operations THEO EPSTEIN and Bears President & CEO TED PHILLIPS (CHICAGO MAGAZINE, 3/'13 issue).

TIME TO INNOVATE: FAST COMPANY magazine released its top 10 most innovative companies in sports list. Nike ranked No. 1 for "changing the game with FuelBand and Flyknit footwear," while the NBA ranked second for its "slam-dunk strategy to draw fans to its digital products." The NBA has "thrived in the new world of sports leagues-as-content producers." Dynamic ticket pricing firm Qcue ranked third for "using data to bridge the gap between fans and teams, with a system that adjusts ticket prices according to many factors" (FAST COMPANY, 3/ '13 issue).

A CINDERELLA STORY: Model KATHERINE WEBB, who is dating Alabama QB A.J. MCCARRON, appears in this year's SI Swimsuit issue after she was featured prominently during the Alabama-Notre Dame BCS Championship game. HLN's A.J. Hammer said, “You get super-famous for going to a football game essentially … and then you have all these opportunities.” Webb said it has been a “whirlwind” and “my life completely changed” since the game. Webb: “It’s been difficult, though, because it’s been so quick.” Webb said she was “completely amazed” when SI wanted to do a photo shoot with her “because every model dreams of being in Sports Illustrated” ("Showbiz Tonight," HLN, 2/13). 

AWARDS & HONORS: ESPN NFL analyst LOMAS BROWN will be inducted into the Michigan Sports HOF on Monday at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Other inductees include former NBAers MATEEN CLEAVES and STEVE SMITH, NBC's TONY DUNGY and former NFLer TYRONE WHEATLEY (ESPN)....The Communitas Awards on Wednesday announced the NHL as winner of the ’13 Leadership in Ethical & Environmental Responsibility category for the league’s NHL Green initiative (NHL)

NAMES: FS Midwest’s KAYLA KNIERIM, along with Baseball HOFers WADE BOGGS and ROLLIE FINGERS, last week traveled to an army garrison in Grafenwoehr, Germany (, 2/14)….Open-wheel driver CONOR DALY and his management team have hired The KINC agency for global representation (THE DAILY)….Canadiens D P.K. SUBBAN will offer instructional tips in the second episode of Disney XD Canada’s “Drop In” series featuring snowboarder COULTON CONWAY (THE DAILY)….Patriots TE ROB GRONKOWSKI will serve as the Oscars Red Carpet correspondent for’s “Rich Eisen Podcast” (, 2/14)….Hockey HOFer WAYNE GRETZKY and his daughter PAULINA were in golfer DUSTIN JOHNSON’s gallery on Thursday at the PGA Tour Northern Trust Open (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/15).