Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal wanted something fun to bring the sports community together ahead of Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7 in Tampa.
So he came up with The SHAQ Bowl.
The pregame show, which will debut ahead of the game between the Bucs and Chiefs from 3-6 p.m., will pair celebrities, athletes and special guests against each other for a variety of challenges between “Team Tampa Bay” and “Team Kansas City.”
“The old Super Bowl pregame has been boring, so we’re going to change that,” O’Neal said in a Zoom press conference Wednesday. “Everybody is going to be home this year, so I said, ‘Let’s do something fun and entertaining for the people.’”
O’Neal recruited a “crazy lineup” that includes former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, actor Anthony Anderson, wrestler Drew McIntyre and rappers Nelly and Offset on Team Tampa Bay; and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, media personality Olivia Culpo, DJ Diplo, rapper Quavo, television personality Steve-O and wrestler The Miz on Team Kansas City.
Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, four-time Pro Bowl receiver Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson and the NFL Network’s Sara Walsh will serve as hosts.
During the event, Pepsi will run the “Restaurant Battles” challenge, which will feature local stops: Bubbaque’s, Datz Restaurant, 7th + Grove and Harpoon Harry’s. The restaurants will go head-to-head showcasing their food for a $10,000 grant.
Other competitions will include an obstacle course (with parts football, basketball, golf, etc.), celebrity dodgeball, tug-of-war, a hot wing challenge, dance challenge, sit-up challenge and more.
Asked which team he thought would end up with bragging rights — and the first SHAQ Bowl trophy — O’Neal was torn.
“This is pretty evenly matched up,” he said. “Ezekiel Elliott’s pretty sharp, but then you match him up with Tim Tebow ... so I don’t know, I’m not sure.”
Fans interested in viewing the SHAQ Bowl, which is broadcasting from a custom-built stadium about 10 minutes from Raymond James Stadium, can watch it live on Facebook (facebook.com/shaq), the SHAQ Bowl website or other online platforms such as YouTube, Twitch and Twitter.
When it comes down to the real Super Bowl matchup, O’Neal said he’s excited to see Tom Brady go head-to-head against Patrick Mahomes.
O’Neal said he’d love to see Brady and the Bucs win, since he is friends with running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Rob Gronkowski. But O’Neal said he can’t resist the “old king” versus “new prince” storyline, either.
“A last-minute touchdown is going to win the game because in this game, you can’t let nobody get two or three touchdowns ahead,” O’Neal said. “I would like to see it go back-and-forth. It better be great, because the country needs that. The country needs a nice game.”
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