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‘Tiger King’: Shaq defends himself over Joe Exotic connection

(L-R): Shaquille O’Neal and Joe Exotic.
(L-R): Shaquille O’Neal and Joe Exotic. Instagram/GWZoo

Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) is setting the record straight about his connection to Joe Exotic after the NBA superstar made a brief appearance in Netflix’s latest true crime docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Tiger King). 

O’Neal appeared in the opening episode of the seven-part docuseries and it showed him touring the GW Zoo in Oklahoma and taking pictures with the animals and Exotic, who is currently in prison serving a 22-year sentence for hiring a hitman to murder Carole Baskin.

The clip cut to him referencing the visit the next night while on an NBA broadcast, saying, “Shoutout to Exotic Joe” and “I got two more tigers.”

READ MORE: ‘Tiger King’ — Police asking for new leads in disappearance of Don Lewis, Carole Baskin’s ex-husband

The GW Zoo posted a photo of O’Neal and Exotic together with a white tiger in November 2014, captioning it: “You never know who you can bump into when you’re visiting the park.”

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During a recent episode of “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” the 48-year-old sports analyst explained his appearance on Tiger King.

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe,” O’Neal said. “We’re there, and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with [the] tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time, and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

O’Neal said that he does donate money to help tigers and claims he never bought any tigers from Joe Exotic. He also said that he is not friends with him, either.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

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The former Lakers player revealed that he has already “binge-watched” all of Tiger King. “It’s actually a really good documentary,” he added.

When O’Neal was asked by his co-host if he thinks his appearance at the GW Zoo could paint him in a “bad light,” he said he wasn’t worried.

“People that know me know that I’m righteous,” he said.

O’Neal also said that he “will continue to go to people’s sanctuaries and farms and look at cats.”

That’s not going to stop me,” he added.