Shaquille O’Neal Vehemently Defends Nikola Jokic After the Joker Violently Blindsided Markieff Morris: ‘It’s Called Retaliation’

The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat provided fans the first true altercation of the 2021-22 NBA season. At the center of the action was reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who earned a suspension for his role in the brawl. However, fellow big man Shaquille O’Neal explained why he actually likes what the Joker did.

Nikola Jokic pushed Markieff Morris from behind

Monday night, the Nuggets were well on their way to a convincing victory over the Heat. Leading the way was Jokic, who had 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists for his first triple-double of the season. But the game didn’t exactly end quietly.

With less than two minutes left in regulation. Jokic was bringing the ball up the floor before Heat forward Markieff Morris purposely ran into the center, knocking him back. As Morris turned his back and began to walk away, the 6-foot-11 Jokic charged his shoulder into the forward’s back, knocking him firmly on the ground. Both teams immediately ran to half court to break up any potential fight brewing. Once the dust settled, the big man was ejected.

“That was a very dangerous, dirty play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, per CBS Sports. “I thought Keef took a foul and it was one of those fast-break take fouls. And he did it with his shoulder. … That’s how I saw it. And the play after that, that’s just absolutely uncalled for.”

“It’s a stupid play, I feel bad,” Jokic later said. “I’m not supposed to react that way. I got hit. I saw him, but I thought it was just gonna be like a take foul. But he bumped me and I was like, I think it was a dirty play and I just needed to protect myself.”

The bad blood continued to escalate on Tuesday, with Morris’ twin brother Marcus and Nikola’s brothers going after one another on social media.

Shaquille O’Neal likes what Jokic did

Even if Morris was the one who started it, Jokic’s decision to retaliate has been called into question. However, ahead of Tuesday night’s TNT double-header, Shaq revealed how he actually liked how the Joker handled things.

“It’s called retaliation. First of all, when he hit me, don’t turn around. Don’t turn around, Brad Miller, because I’m swinging.”

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq is referencing an infamous moment he had with former Chicago Bulls center Brad Miller. The center fouled O’Neal and then turned his back to walk away. But the Big Diesel went after Miller, throwing a violent punch and inciting a brawl. He then proceeded to continue his defense of Jokic.

“As a big guy, when a little guy hits you, you gotta touch him on back. I have no problem with what the Joker did. I actually like it, as a big guy. You got these guys fouling them, [Morris] hit him. Intentional, unnecessary roughness. So what do you do as a big guy? You go hit him back. When you hit me, don’t turn your head, because it’s coming. You’re either going to get it in the front or get it in the back.”

Fellow analyst Charles Barkley agreed with O’Neal, saying how if someone hit him and then turned their back, he would have no problem retaliating.

Fortunately, for the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic’s suspension is a short one

While offering his support of Jokic, Shaq also said he should be suspended for one game “because of the letter of the law in the NBA.” Turns out, O’Neal was right on the money. Late Tuesday night, the NBA announced Jokic will serve a one-game suspension, while Morris will be fined $50,000.

Jokic wasn’t just great against the Heat. The 26-year-old is building off of his MVP season by averaging 25.4 points, a career-high 13.6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. According to Basketball Reference, the Joker is the NBA’s leader in win shares per 48 minutes, box plus-minus, and value over replacement player. More or less, he is once again proving himself as an MVP candidate.

However, the Nuggets are running thin. Denver still awaits the return of Jamal Murray, who tore his ACL in the second half of last season. And recently, the team lost young star Michael Porter Jr. to a back injury that will sideline him “for the foreseeable future.” That leaves Jokic as the sole hope for a Nuggets team aiming to win a title.

The Joker will serve his one-game suspension and return to action soon. But at least he has the support of Shaq to fall back on in the meantime.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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