We're a little behind on this, but Shira Springer's Shaquille O'Neal story in Sunday's Globe is worth checking out. The accompanying video alone is priceless. The lede is pretty perfect. It's vintage Shaq, from a personality standpoint at least.
CAMBRIDGE — He waited patiently with the horde for his Mr. Bartley’s burger. He amiably patted the bronze boot of John Harvard, bought two dry tomes at a bookstore, and paused to ask a clutch of students the one question on everyone’s mind yesterday.
"Could you tell me where the microphysics building is?’’ Shaquille O’Neal patiently inquired.
Jolly, immense, amused, amusing, patient, thoughtful, and soon to be draped in green, O’Neal, the NBA’s most celebrated giant, took on Harvard Square yesterday.
It was a serious mismatch.
He arrived without celebrity entourage — no publicist, no handlers, no burly security — and soon had a mob of students, tourists, and shoppers trailing in his vast wake. The growing crowd followed O’Neal from Widener Library through Harvard Yard to the Harvard Book Store, disbelieving what they saw. They directed cameras and shout-outs his way. Everyone wanted a piece of the 7-foot-1 megastar, and just about everyone got one.
Hardly anything stops the traffic chaos of the Square. But when Shaq dropped his formidable frame onto a bench, the crowd swarmed and traffic stopped.
"It’s like this in every city, every country,’’ said O’Neal. "I read on the Internet that I’m the third most recognized face in the world.’’
So salt of the earth! All right, so Shaq has made hundreds of millions of dollars. He's not the common man.
But he's funny. And that counts for something.
"People see me as touchable and real,’’ said O’Neal. "I make them feel like I know that guy. You’ve got to be yourself. A lot of athletes make the mistake of trying to build their brand. I built my brand just by playing and being myself. People who have the most successful image live by what I live by. Image is reality. A lot of stuff I do, I’ve been doing since I’ve been 8-years-old.’’