Shaquille O’Neal is (mostly) beloved by the public. Alongside Penny Hardaway, he helped turn the Magic into one of the most exciting NBA teams just as the Bulls rose to power. Shaq became a pop culture sensation, starring in films and video games along the way. But his time as a beloved figure may be running out.
O’Neal’s personality can turn from affable to downright mean. Take his one-sided late-career feud with fellow big man Yao Ming, for example. There was also the bad blood between Shaq and his former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant. In 2021, though, many of the biggest active NBA players are growing tired of Shaq’s schtick.
Donovan Mitchell has had enough of Shaquille O’Neal
When Donovan Mitchell spoke with O’Neal recently on NBA on TNT, his facial expression said it all. After the Utah Jazz crushed the New Orleans pelicans 129-118, O’Neal stated, “I’ve said it before, you are one of my favorite players, but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level.” Mitchell took a moment to simply smirk at Shaq.
In the end, the Jazz shooting guard had exactly two words for Shaq: “I know.” He refused to give in to what amounts to years of criticism from the former NBA star. The show was stuck in neutral for a moment. O’Neal clearly didn’t get the response he hoped for. Mitchell refused to give it to him.
Shaq’s pattern has defined his run on NBA on TNT. He’s usually an enjoyable presence with pithy observations and fun takes on the game. But he has a habit of pivoting swiftly to genuine bullying. This has been especially notable since the global pandemic hit. It’s an increasingly bad habit that hasn’t escaped some of the biggest NBA names.
Rudy Gobert is one of Shaq’s favorite targets
Mitchell’s reaction probably isn’t just about O’Neal’s trash talk focused on him alone. It likely doesn’t help that Mitchell’s teammate Rudy Gobert is one of Shaq’s more one-sided ongoing beefs. The media personality tends to target big men, openly insulting them in personal ways. Gobert, in light of his big contract renewal, is one O’Neal’s favorite targets of verbal abuse.
Much like Mitchell, Gobert hasn’t taken the bait, details CBS Sports. “There is no beef,” Gobert said. “If people want to keep speaking negatively about me, or keep discrediting what I do, it’s on them. And all that does is show who they are.” That’s as close as Gobert has come to taking Shaq to task. It seems like the Jazz star simply wants Shaq to leave him alone.
Shaq’s behavior got bad enough that Kevin Durant and LeBron James
Republicworld reports that, after Shaq’s latest insult to Mitchell, the biggest stars in the league both chimed in on an Instagram post by Cuffs The Legend. “There’s a difference between constructive criticism and soft hating though,” James wrote about O’Neal’s tone with Mitchell. “I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”
Kevin Durant also chimed in on Cuffs The Legend’s Instagram post. “Them old heads need to go enjoy retirement,” he wrote. “These boys have coaches they work with every day.” It appears even the most talented superstars in the game have noticed the way Shaq too often treats younger players, and they’ve had enough of it.