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Possible Shohei Ohtani Ban From MLB Has Shaq Questioning $700 Million Contract

Published 04/16/2024, 11:50 AM EDT

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Shaquille O’Neal has dabbled in various other fields like acting, DJ-ing, and rapping. But one thing Shaq disclosed on his podcast that he can’t seem to understand is players betting on games. As the news of the NBA investigating Toronto Raptors forward, Jontay Porter for alleged breaching of betting rules gathers pace, Shaq was curious about LA Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani’s case as well.

On The Big Podcast with Shaq, Adam Lefkoe the co-host of the podcast talked to Shaquille O’Neal about the NBA betting scandal in the segment “What’s Going on Here?” Lefkoe explained to O’Neal how Jontay Porter is under investigation for following multiple instances of betting irregularities. This prompted Shaq to mention, “The other guy that’s making 700 million, let’s talk about him second.” Shohei Ohtani, who recently became the highest-paid athlete in MLB history is also under the scanner because of his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

Lefkoe mentioned, “Originally the story came out that he was down this ($4.5 million) amount of money, and then Shohei Ohtani paid off the tab for him, like I’ll take care of it. Then they changed their story and then suddenly the interpreter was stealing money from Otani from his accounts. There’s so many questions there are so many theories as to like what if the player himself was the one making the bets and this guy’s taking the fall.”

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Shaquille O’Neal only had one question after listening to the Ohtani story, “You get a $700 million contract and you still betting?” Shaq then asked, “What if they found out he was betting on games, he’s done?” 

USA Today via Reuters

Lefkoe cited former Cincinnati Reds player Pete Rose as an example and said, “Think about Pete Rose Pete Rose has been banned from baseball for betting on sports.” Rose, who played from 1963-1986 in MLB and also managed Cincinnati Reds from 1984-1989, was banned for life from baseball for gambling on multiple sports.

Mizuhara allegedly embezzled money from Ohtani’s accounts and used it for his gambling addictions. However, this was different from the earlier version of the story that came out, where Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani had willingly given him the money to pay off the gambling debts.

Earlier during the conversation, Shaq expressed his displeasure at Jontay Porter allegedly getting involved in betting. As a punishment, Shaq suggested Porter should give back all the money he earned from playing basketball, plus the money he won from betting. The NBA icon also pointed out that Porter should be banned from playing in all basketball leagues if found guilty.

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The 52-year-old was upset by players who got involved with sports betting. According to him, this throws a negative light on not only the players involved but also the teammates and the entire organization. Currently, all the evidence points against the interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, and not Ohtani according to an ESPN analyst.

The curious case of Ohtani

According to Jeff Passan, “thousands and thousands” of pages of texts between Ohtani and Mizuhara were found but none of them had any implication of gambling. Mizuhara had made over 19,000 wagers and his current debt is around $40 million. The former interpreter committed a $16 million theft crime according to reports.

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Mizuhara was sacked by the Dodgers after a federal probe was launched in the case. While Ohtani remains in the clear for now, if he is found linked to the online betting scandal, he could face a ban from MLB. According to League Rule 21, any MLB player found to have bet on any game of baseball in which he is not involved, will be banned for a year. Meanwhile, anyone caught betting on a game in which they are a participant will be given a life ban.

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Already considered the modern-day Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani is only 29 years old. There is no denying his star power and presence, but will the dark cloud over his shoulder bear any more bad news?

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Written by:

Pranav Kotai

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Pranav Kotai is an NBA beat writer at EssentiallySports. With a master's in sports management and a lifelong passion for basketball, Pranav has an eye for understanding NBA like no other. Pranav is an open encyclopedia of all storylines, with a well-rounded approach to his writing, especially for his favorites like NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph