“You Can’t Have People Jeopardizing Your Empire” | Shaq Reveals How “Scarface” Inspired Him To Take Care Of His Friends


Shaquille O’Neal’s business moves are legendary, and he has mastered the art of leveraging his unique brand of charisma and celebrity to become an entrepreneurial hero.

From his city of birth’s rough-and-tumble streets, Newark, New Jersey, to his statue at the now Crypto.com Arena, O’Neal is a force to be reckoned with.

Little discussed is O’Neal’s ability to make all of his friends rich. It is a narrative in the NBA that has seemed to exclusively discuss LeBron James’ circle of childhood friends turned business partners.

The Original LBJ

However, Shaquille O’Neal was James’ progenitor in the friends-turned-business partners of an epic NBA career. He discussed it in his book “Shaq Talks Back,” revealing his larger-than-life career in the NBA.

“You can’t have people jeopardizing your empire. My crew would never do that,” Shaq said in the book. “Most of them have a tattoo with the initials “T. WISM” on it. It’s almost like a fraternity thing. It stands for ‘The World Is Mine.’

“This is going to sound kind of silly, but I got the idea after watching ‘Scarface’ in college. Tony Montana, the character played by Al Pacino, had that great, big globe of the world. On it was the message: “The world is ours.”

To-ny Mon-tan-a (Future Voice)

Al Pacino’s legendary role as Tony Montana, aka “Scarface,” has been inspirational for many underprivileged and successful alike for the take no prisoners attitude that he embodied. Rising from a Cuban criminal that “emigrated” to America during the infamous Mariel Boat Lift in 1980, Montana saw what he wanted in Miami and rose to the top in the cocaine trade violently but with his friends.

O’Neal did the same thing taking his violence out only to backboards he shattered and ribs he elbowed to throw his weight around the paint. However, like James, whose friends=-turned-business partners have been labeled a “posse” by former NBA coach Phil Jackson, O’Neal had to manage the perception of his friendship-based altruism.

“Posse” Rules

“Now, I admit, I have let some of my guys use me, somewhat, to get where they want to go in life,” O’Neal continued in the book. “I’ve told them, ‘When it’s all over, it’s gonna be all over. You all are going to make a lot of money. You’re going to know some of the people I know and have great opportunities in life.’” If they want to start up a business, I might help them.

“But by the time I retire, they should all be set in a lot of ways. I don’t consider anyone in my crew hangers-on, people who just take things from you. There was an article in Sports Illustrated once that kind of made fun of them, calling them ‘The Men of Unclear Purpose.’ It made it look like these cats were riding around with me, doing nothing with their lives.”

The Shepherd

There is the adage “nothing is new under the sun,” and O’Neal was shepherding his friends to greater heights before the current crop of young players and veterans like James.

In Shaq’s case, his friends can thank “Scarface,” but instead of “say hello to my little friend,” O’Neal was the big homie everybody needed.

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