NEWARK, N.J. – New Jersey native and former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal is backing Democrat Phil Murphy in this year’s contest to succeed Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Murphy campaign spokesman Dan Bryan says O’Neal will formally endorse Murphy on Monday. He had no further details.
O’Neal backed Christie in his 2013 re-election bid, calling the governor a “great man” and even appearing in an ad for him. Christie cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
Murphy is leading GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the polls ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
Guadagno’s camp did not address O’Neal’s decision to endorse a Democrat this year. Instead, her campaign criticized Murphy over his promise to hike taxes, including on millionaires. And her spokesman Ricky Diaz said, “The lieutenant governor is proud of the growing support she’s receiving from hardworking taxpayers.”
O’Neal isn’t the first high-profile figure to get involved in the race.
This week, Murphy’s campaign announced that former President Barack Obama would campaign for the Democrat. Former Vice-President Joe Biden also backed Murphy and appeared with him before the June primary.
Guadagno got the backing of former “Saturday Night Live” star and actor Joe Piscopo, who had been weighing entering the race himself.
O’Neal was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. He was an instant box office draw during his career because of his mammoth frame and rim-shaking dunks. He also exhibited a personality that was as playful as it was engaging.