Joel Embiid gets it. When Shaquille O’Neal called him out for playing soft, the Sixers superstar didn’t whine about it. He used it as motivation, knowing the Hall of Famer had his best interest in mind.
When all those guys, Shaq, Charles [Barkley], they just kept talking about how dominant I could be, I understood. They saw the talent. They saw what I could really do. But I wasn’t using it. I wasn’t doing it. So when they were criticizing me, I just saw it as a way to kinda open my eyes and actually be better.Joel Embiid, Stadium
O’Neal’s intentions were the same when he “dissed” Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and James Harden. One can argue about how his messages are being delivered, but it’s always done in good faith to light a fire under those who need it.
Steph Curry didn’t need it. The Warriors superstar always had the fire. But Shaq, like many others, doubted his play style. Especially early in his career – no one believed you could win a title by shooting a bunch of threes. So what did Steph do? He shot his way to 2 MVPs, 3 NBA championships, and an all-time great NBA resume, proving everyone wrong. And that’s exactly what Diesel wants.
I like being proved wrong. So my message to these young cats, when I say something, prove me wrong.Shaquille O’Neal, All The Smoke
A while back, O’Neal was a young cat. And he was dominant, but his numbers didn’t translate to wins. Shaq had some success with the Magic – they reached the NBA Finals in ’95 – but he got to a slow start wearing the Lakers uniform. And if you think no one called him out for it, you’re wrong.
When Kareem was doing all that talking, I said, ‘you’re right Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, I’m not winning, I appreciate it.’ I called my father; he was like, ‘motherfu*ker, he right. You ain’t doing sh*t. You’ve been in LA four years and got swept four times in a row. You out there doing videos and rap songs and sh*t, you ain’t doing nothing.’Shaquille O’Neal, All The Smoke
Shaq got his act together, leading the Lakers to three straight championships in the early ’00s alongside Kobe Bryant. Now, two decades later, he credits Kareem for it, doing the same thing Jabbar had done to him.
So far, O’Neal’s efforts bore fruit with Embiid. Curry as well. As far as everyone else the Hall of Famer criticized, they are yet to prove him wrong.