Shaq gave us one of sports’ greatest quotes when he compared himself to Vito Corleone, Penny Hardaway to Fredo, Kobe Bryant to Sonny, and Dwyane Wade to Michael.
Upon closer examination, Shaq is not comparable to Vito. He is Hyman Roth.
“Your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth, but he never trusted Hyman Roth.”
Is there a better quote to describe how Kobe, Wade, or Phil Jackson thought about Shaq? Or Steve Nash? Ask him if he trusts Shaq after he stole his reality tv idea.
But the parallels run much deeper than trust. Both men formed their identities in similar ways. Shaq named himself after his favorite superhero, the Man of Steel. Roth named himself after his favorite mob hero, Arnold Rothstein, the man alleged to have fixed the World Series.
Is it a coincidence that Roth’s underlings, Johnny Ola and Fredo, go see a performer named Superman?
Both Shaq and Roth have huge divides between their public and private personas.
Shaq has worked hard to get the public to think of him as the jovial, goofy star who jokes with reporters, dances at All-Star games, and stars in Aaron Carter videos.
In reality, Shaq is a hateful, mean man, who without his fun-loving persona would be Albert Belle.
Ask Larry Johnson what happens when you call your opponents the Sacramento "Queens." Well, nobody liked LJ like they do Shaq, and Shaq never averaged 2.7 yards per carry. Or ask Gasol what happens when you say “tell Yao Ming, ching chong yang.” No one seemed to care when he took shots at Chris Quinn and Ricky Davis.
Who else in sports does something like that? And don’t forget Kobe’s remark that he wasn’t the only Laker unfaithful but unlike others he did not pay his "companions" large sums to stay quiet.
Likewise, Hyman Roth maintains the image of a quiet old man. “I am a retired investor on a pension, and I wished to live here as a Jew in the twilight of my life.” Only this pensioner was running a syndicate bigger than U.S. Steel. He pretended to be an uncle to Michael, while using his brother to try to kill him.
Roth and Shaq both seem like they are never going to go away. “Hyman Roth has been dying of the same heart attack for the last 20 years,” quips Michael. Likewise, Shaq has looked rejuvenated since leaving Miami and put up 18 points a game last year.
In the mob where everyone dies or goes to jail, Roth survived for a long time for one reason, according to Johnny Ola.
“Hyman Roth makes money for his partners. One by one, all our old friends are gone…Hyman Roth is the only one left, because he always made money for his partners.”
Shaq has survived being a jerk, and leaving four teams on bad terms by making money for his partners. But Roth does not live forever due to his betrayal of the Corleones and the fall of Batista.
A time will come where Shaq will not make anyone money and his true colors will be more apparent.
When Roth cannot stay in the U.S., he tries to seek asylum in Israel. I would not be the first to suggest Shaq would consider playing for Maccabi in 2012. But even that team might not want the baggage.
Be weary of airport reporters, Shaq.