Shaquille O'Neal has never been particularly supportive of the generation of players that followed him. Feuds with other big men like Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Rudy Gobert have become common for the current TNT broadcaster and Hall of Fame center, but his criticism reached a nadir in a recent interview with Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. Speaking to Mitchell on live television, O'Neal told him that "you don't have what it takes to get to the next level," and justified the statement by suggesting that he wanted Mitchell to hear it as a form of motivation.
O'Neal has been roundly criticized for the interview, with both fans and modern stars like Kevin Durant and LeBron James speaking in Mitchell's defense. But rather than apologize for his statement, O'Neal has doubled down on it. On Monday, O'Neal posted an Instagram slideshow showcasing former teammates Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Penny Hardaway and LeBron James with a caption that read: "This is what greatness at the guard position looks like. I played with the best ever-to do it. You know I know what best look like. #donthavetohate. Y'all kno I got G14 classification to say what I say."
The post was strange on a number of levels. James criticized O'Neal for what he said to Mitchell, yet he appears in the slideshow. While Mitchell is not nearly as accomplished, he is frequently compared to Wade, who also shows up. It should also be noted that Mitchell, 24, is in only his fourth NBA season and is currently leading a contender. He may not be the equal of the players shown yet, but suggesting that he doesn't have a chance to get there seems enormously premature.
Mitchell's city has his back, at least. Lawmakers in Utah recently came up with a resolution, in jest, that honors Mitchell and simultaneously takes some shots at Shaq.
"In Utah, we support our players when they face awkward abuse during post-game interviews disguised as pep talks," the resolution said. "... The claim by Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq) on January 21, 2021, that Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell Jr. (Donovan) doesn't have what it takes to get to the next level is even less accurate than his 50.4% playoff free-throw percentage (slightly worse than Donovan's 88.1%)."
O'Neal is hardly known for his restraint. He frequently feuded with opponents (and even teammates) as a player, and now that has carried over into his broadcasting career. He has seemingly committed to his anti-Mitchell take, but if the young Jazz star continues to grow at the rate that he has so far, Shaq may soon regret that stance.