Shaquille O’Neal Says He’s Only Watching Women’s College Basketball This Year: ‘Just a Better Game’ (Exclusive)

The NBA legend pointed to NCAA stars Angel ReeseCaitlin Clark and JuJu Watkins for the rise in women’s college basketball viewership

Ethan Miller/Getty; Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Shaquille O

Ethan Miller/Getty; Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Shaquille O’Neal, Angel Reese
Shaquille O’Neal made a bold statement about this year’s college basketball season.

The 52-year-old NBA legend and star LSU Tigers alum tells PEOPLE, “I haven’t even been paying attention to the guys, only been paying attention to the girls,” during the current season as he prepares for the upcoming March Madness tournament.

“I hate to say it, but the women players are kicking the men’s butts.

You’ve got my Angel Reese. You’ve got all the girls from South Carolina.

You’ve got JuJu Watkins, you’ve got Caitlin Clark.”

O’Neal explains, “It’s just a better game, just more competitive.”

Fox Sports analyst Michael Mulvihill shared on X (formerly known as Twitter) that women’s college basketball is currently averaging 981,000 viewers, topping the men’s teams, which brought in an average of 946,000 this season.

O’Neal says that the advantage over the men’s viewership is “well deserved” for the women, and he was able to see the difference in popularity with his own eyes when he visited his alma mater recently.

“I went to LSU to watch Angel,” says O’Neal, referring to Reese’s senior night tribute, during which he escorted her and her mother onto the court.

“It was my first time ever seeing the girls’ game way more packed than the boys’ game, but it was actually a good feeling,” he says, acknowledging the benefits for basketball in general.

“I’m happy for the young female athletes, and it’s inspiring to young girls,” O’Neal explains.

Paras Griffin/Getty Shaquille O'Neal in McDonough, Georgia on April 7, 2021

Paras Griffin/Getty Shaquille O’Neal in McDonough, Georgia on April 7, 2021
Related: Proud Shaquille O’Neal Presents Daughter Me’Arah with No. 24 Jersey for McDonald’s All-American Game

“It’s definitely well deserved,” he adds, “We’re all in this together.

I think sports and music are the only two things that can have people turn off their stress, turn off negative stuff and just sit and relax and wind down.”

O’Neal says he doesn’t have a prediction for the men’s Final Four this year since he hasn’t been keeping up with their teams, but his “perfect” bracket for the 2024 Women’s Final Four “would be Iowa, LSU, South Carolina and USC, if it’s possible.”

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With March Madness quickly approaching, O’Neal says he’s excited to partner with Home Depot and “bring their sponsorship of the NCAA’s March Madness to life” when the tournament begins on March 19.

“I’ve been a Home Depot customer for a long, long, long, long time.

When I first bought my house in Georgia, it was kind of a fixer-upper and Home Depot was the place to go.

So now this campaign is just about fun, and it pairs the basketball terminology I’m used to saying with the spring products at Home Depot, like seeding and brackets and cleaning the glass,” says O’Neal.

Starting March 17, fans can enjoy the “Tips From the Tool Shaq” series, a title O’Neal thinks is “very fun and very cute,” in which the NBA star lends his talents to an extensive collection of project guides and step-by-step videos on Home Depot’s website.

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