Shaquille O’Neal is not backing down from his battles with the new generation of NBA players.
The Hall of Famer and “Inside the NBA” analyst has caught some flak after telling Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell that he does not “have what it takes to get to the next level,” but O’Neal continued to argue that players these days need a little tough love.
“I’m just doing what was done to me,” he said on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Monday. “I can remember when I was averaging 30, 35 in L.A., but we were always getting swept. And the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, ‘Hey, you guys haven’t won a championship yet.’
“Did I whine? Did I cry? Did I complain on social media? Nope. I didn’t say anything, because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a chief-14 classification to say that. What am I gonna do? Have a dispute with the greatest NBA player ever?
“So, when he said that, when he gave me constructive criticism, I took it, and I listened, and I brought my game to another level. So these guys now, they’re pudding pops.”
Of course, Abdul-Jabbar reminding O’Neal he has not won a championship is not quite the same as telling a young player on live TV that he doesn’t have what it takes.
Players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant have come to Mitchell’s defense since O’Neal began his beef with the 24-year-old.
Mitchell, for what it’s worth, is averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game through 33 games this year — all on pace to be career highs — and is headed to his second straight All-Star appearance in his fourth season.