It's a simple question, but an answer isn't always as straightforward.
To those of us on the outside looking in at Aaron Hernandez, he had it all. A 23-year-old star who lived in a luxurious home with his fiance and baby, Hernandez was a popular player who signed a monstrous $41 million extension in August of last year with one of the NFL's marquee teams, the New England Patriots.
It was all vindication for the troubled kid from Bristol, Conn., the same guy who was vilified for his persistent marijuana use at the University of Florida, along with the inability to control a prodigious temper.
Hernandez finally had the respect and reputation he was looking for.
Or did he?
TMZ.com recently published a photo of a 17-year-old Hernandez flashing gang signs often associated with the Bristol Bloods street gang in Connecticut, all while dressed head-to-toe in red clothing. It was seemingly confirmation of Aaron's long-rumored affiliation with the group.
Most of us assume everyone has the same kind of dreams -- to be financially secure with a loving family and friends. To young men caught up in a gang culture, however, the thought process is far darker.
Yeah, respect and reputation are still sought but not from conventional sources like a significant other or an offspring. It's all about impressing your real "family," the other members of the gang. And if you don't get the aforementioned respect or garner the rep you "deserve," a third "R" comes into play -- retaliation.
According to Esperanza, a Philadelphia-based activist network designed to strengthen the Hispanic community, defending the reputation and respect of a gang is the logical and expected behavior for all members.
"It becomes a primary function of gang membership," the group wrote in its publication, Gangs 101. "Any disrespect or challenge towards the gang or one of its members, whether perceived or real, will force an action. The challenge must be answered in order to maintain the respect and reputation of the gang. The response or action is usually violent and criminal and it serves as an opportunity to increase a member's individual status or to regain the gang's respect and reputation."
Massachusetts authorities, of course, are accusing Hernandez of orchestrating the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston man whose body was found in a North Attleborough, Mass., industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's home on June 17.
Bristol County assistant district attorney William McCauley believes the plot to kill Lloyd began on June 14, when Lloyd and Hernandez went to a Boston nightclub and Hernandez saw Lloyd talking to people Hernandez "had troubles with."
Two days later, Hernandez allegedly summoned two men from Bristol, Conn., to help him kill the "disrespectful" Lloyd. One of them, 27-year-old Carlos Ortiz, was taken into custody in Connecticut on Wednesday after Massachusetts officials issued an arrest warrant. Ortiz is currently being held in The Nutmeg State on $1.5 million bail for probation violation and as a fugitive from justice.
During Hernandez's arraignment on Wednesday, prosecutors claimed they have video surveillance from several sources showing Lloyd getting into a silver Nissan with Hernandez and two other men in Dorchester, Mass., before arriving at the industrial park shortly before the murder.
During the alleged ride to his eventual execution, Lloyd seemed to understand he was in trouble, texting his sister moments before he was shot five times, execution style.
"Did you see who I am with?" Lloyd wrote shortly after 3 a.m., before answering himself with two chilling messages right before being killed: "NFL." and "Just so you know."
Night workers at the industrial park heard gunshots between 3:23 and 3:27 a.m. and a few minutes later, surveillance video at Hernandez's home showed him walking through the house with a pistol in his hand.
The Patriots cut Hernandez less than two hours after he was taken into custody on Wednesday and now the former Pro Bowl tight end is looking at life in prison without parole.
To most of us, this is a tragedy on the level of Macbeth or Othello.
But to the guy who was always more concerned about earning the respect of his "friends" from Bristol, it's possible football was just his job and his athleticism enabled the money to come far too easily to appreciate.
In other words, the things we think are important meant nothing to Aaron Hernandez.
The real story here is Hernandez's inability to leave a dysfunctional group behind despite having the means, opportunity and obligation to do so.