Shaq says Steph Curry's Warriors would've been 'six or seven seed' in his era as old-school madness continues
Much of this is in response to Draymond Green, whose comments were actually pretty reasonable
Before we start, can we all agree that Draymond Green is a really good basketball player and a world-class agitator? We should be able to do at least that much. The evidence for both is about as irrefutable as it gets. I'm hoping we can establish these baselines in a long-shot hope that from this foundation a reasonable conversation can ensue.
Now, Green has spent the better part of his basketball career getting under people's skin. For years he's gone back and forth with Charles Barkley, who has thrown consistent jabs at Green for being, essentially, nothing more than a coattail-riding beneficiary of his historic teammates.
"He's the least famous person in the boy band, and he thinks he's a star,". "He's lucky to be in the boy band. He thinks all the girls are screaming for him. No, they're screaming for Justin Timberlake."
Green, for his part, has belittled Barkley for, and recently he went so far as to suggest on Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson's "All the Smoke" podcast that, all things considered, he has been a better player than Barkley was during his Hall of Fame career.
"He scored more points than me," Green said. "But that don't necessarily mean [he] had more impact on the game than me."
On that same podcast, Green -- who we have to point out admitted that it's impossible to compare teams from different eras who played different styles under different rules -- claimed that his Warriors teams are "the greatest team ever," adding that he and Steph Curry would've "f--king destroyed" Shaquille O'Neal in pick-and-rolls had they ever had the chance to play against one another.
Shaq, of course, fired back by saying the following on his own podcast:
"I like Draymond. I like guys that voice their opinion," O'Neal said. "I try not to get personal with guys. I like him, I like the way he plays. You have to listen to his points. He made good, key points. He said in their era. He didn't say in my era ... In my era, [the Warriors] would have been the six or seven seed. You had us, you had San Antonio, you had the Utah Jazz, you had Portland, you had White Chocolate and C-Webb [in Sacramento]. ... But again, it's his opinion. I try not to get personal with people's opinions. But however, Mr. Draymond, like you said, I would've torn your a-- up on that block."
That last "like you said" sentence is very important. Indeed, if you listen to Green's full interview, he admitted that Shaq "would've 'f--king murdered me on the block." See, this is reasonable. Green is granting Shaq his half of the argument while also saying that Shaq, north of seven feet and well in excess of 300 pounds, would have been out of his depth trying to venture 25 feet out of the paint and switch onto Curry or rotate back to a rolling Green in a timely manner.
You know what that's called? Basketball.
Both teams have strengths, both teams have weaknesses
Let the chess match begin.
Where this always goes astray is the old-school guys, rather that recognizing this tit-for-tat dynamic, completely dismissing the modern stars and teams. If O'Neal wants to say Green couldn't have guarded him, fine. If he wants to say the Warriors would've been great, but just not as great as the Lakers, fine.
But to say the Warriors would've been a "six or seven seed" in his era? To suggest a team with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Green would've paled in comparison to the "White Chocolate" Kings and the "Jail Blazers" and the past-their-prime Malone-Stockton Jazz? To go on SiriusXM Radio and say the Warriors "wouldn't have been a factor" in his era, as if they would've been lucky to scrape into the playoffs only to get trounced in the first round?
As Barkley might say: Come on, man.
Now, if Green had been equally egregious in his remarks, saying the Kobe-Shaq Lakers would've had trouble with, I don't know, the Lillard-McCollum Blazers or the Chris Paul Clippers, that would be another matter. But he didn't. He simply said he believes that his Warriors -- no particular season was named -- are the greatest team ever. He might be wrong about that. He might be right. Who knows? Really, who cares?
But it's not an outrageous statement, just as it wouldn't be outrageous for Shaq to say he believes his three-peat Lakers were better than the Warriors, who never won three in a row. But it almost never works this way when it comes to old-school players and their close-minded advocates. It's always an extreme one-way deal: The so-called wimps of today would've melted under the physicality that ruled the league back then.
But the minute you suggest the lesser-skilled players of yesteryear would've, maybe, had a bit of an issue with the speed and 3-point shooting of today, that's nonsense.
Go bring up Magic Johnson's lack of a jump shot to an old-school apologist and wait for the barrel of "he would've adapted" rebuttals. Of course he would have. Magic would've improved his shot or maybe even played a different position, perhaps a downright lethal high-post center who can push on the break, if he were plopped into today's game. Michael Jordan surely would've become a deadly 3-point shooter.
But somehow LeBron James, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound human tank with video-game athleticism, wouldn't have been able to adjust to the "physicality" that Jordan faced against 6-foot-3, 190-pound Joe Dumars or on-his-last-legs Byron Scott. Kevin Durant, at 7 feet with a 50-40-90 jumper, wouldn't have been able to take the great John Salley or Bill Freaking Laimbeer to task. Nope. Those old-timers who cut their own firewood would've just put him in a Full Nelson.
Of course, they would have. Back when men were men. Durant joined up with a 73-win team. He must be the biggest wimp on earth. Magic would've adjusted. Durant would've been crying in the corner.
Now, to be fair, not every old player is like this. Isiah Thomas recently said the following:
"I think this generation [of players] is not getting enough credit for what they're doing," Thomas said. "Because the athletes that are in this generation are so far superior than what was in my generation. [When we were playing], Jordan was the best athlete that we had ever seen, [but] from an athletic standpoint, there are like 10 or 11 guys in the NBA right now with Jordan's athleticism. We didn't have that back then. With what [Kevin Durant] and LeBron are doing, if you put them back in the era of the '80s, with their talent, their athleticism and their skill, who's the GOAT?"
This sounds like an attack on Jordan, but it isn't. Isiah isn't saying Jordan wouldn't be great in any era. He's simply saying, hey, these others guys might've been right there with him. I know that's blasphemous. And again, you can disagree. I think Jordan is the greatest ever, but his dominance doesn't have to be an indictment on the relative dominance of every other star to come after him.
I get it. We're always more romantic looking back. Ask a baby boomer about the state of the world and wait for the "back in my day when people worked hard and went outside to play in the summers" rant, with absolutely no recognition of the elements of today's world that might, dare I say, be a bit more challenging. Kids these days.
Can we just be reasonable? Can we accept that Michael Jordan would've been un-freaking-believable in any era and Shaq was un-guardable on the block and Charles Barkley's ringless resume diminishes his greatness not one single bit, while also admitting the Warriors are pretty damn great and Draymond Green has been an integral part of their success? I know that sounds crazy, but is it possible?
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The plan for resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season is starting to take shape
Eight teams are out, but 22 remain as the NBA moves toward restarting the season in Orlando
The best teams in the NBA want to be rewarded for their seasons
What, exactly, is the plan here?
From LaMelo to James Wiseman, here's a ranking of this class' best and brightest talents
Their numbers might look similar, but their styles vary wildly