Shaq gets starring role in sports challenge TV series

Published 2:45 am Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CLEVELAND — Shaquille O’Neal would deluge Michael Phelps in a cannonball competition. What about a race across the pool?

We’ll see.

The NBA superstar will star in ‘‘Shaq Vs.,’’ a TV series where the 15-time All-Star center will challenge top athletes in their respective sports. During one episode in the show, which debuts on Aug. 18 on ABC, Shaq will swim against Olympic superstar Phelps.

Email newsletter signup

O’Neal, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, also will try his football skills against Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, box retired world champion Oscar De La Hoya, bat against St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, trade tennis volleys with Wimbledon champ Serena Williams and play volleyball against Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor.

O’Neal will negotiate a handicap with his opponents and train with a coach for one week leading up to each challenge.

‘‘These athletes may be on top of their game, but I am up for the challenge,’’ O’Neal said. ‘‘I plan to train hard and win, so look out.’’

O’Neal came up with the idea for the competition as a way of training for the upcoming season.

His first opponent will be Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning QB. They’ll compete in a 7-on-7 passing drill to be filmed later this week in the Pittsburgh area. Also, there will be a news conference leading up to the event as well as before future challenges.

A four-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, O’Neal was traded from Phoenix to Cleveland last month. The 37-year-old has just one season left on his contract but said he wants to play three more years and is hoping he can help Cleveland superstar LeBron James win his first league title.