Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal received backlash in the last few months because of his constant criticism towards younger NBA players. Shaq was specifically critical of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert after he signed a $200 million extension with the Jazz, which is an astronomical amount for a significant majority of people, even some professional athletes. Gobert is the best defensive center in the NBA right now; however, Shaq initially said he doesn’t believe Gobert is worth that type of money. Numerous fans were mad at Shaq, calling him a bitter old man who is unwilling to accept the success of younger players making their way in the league.
In a recent interview for BasketballNews, Shaq touched upon his comments, and now it seems the story is a bit different than a few months ago. He still admits he is jealous, but he is also happy that the younger generation gets that type of money former players could only dream about back in the day. Shaq also debunked the notion that he hates Gobert, which couldn’t be far from the truth.
I’m jealous, but I’m happy. “I’m jealous because I always thought that you had to have Michael-Jordan, superb-type numbers to get that type of money. That’s what it was in my era, but I’m happy for the kids. Reason why I bring up Rudy Gobert, people think I’m hating, it’s not. He’s a good big man; I’m used to dealing with great big men, right?”Shaquille O’Neal, via BasketballNews
Shaq encouraged younger players to model their games after Gobert, whom he considers a great big man. Gobert is a legitimate double-double machine that is great on defense and is quite different from the most centers out there who are focusing on shooting and playing outside of the paint.
“Rudy Gobert is not the average-type, big-guy NBA player no more. ‘Cause the average big they’re looking for now is a guy that can pick-and-pop and do whatever. Rudy Gobert’s big, tall, plays hard, plays great defense, Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s making $200 million. So, all you big guys out there, look at him. Follow him.Shaquille O’Neal, via BasketballNews
Receiving that type of contract extension was previously only at the disposal for the biggest stars in the NBA, with Shaq being one of them. Now, we are seeing $100 million contracts handed out to players who are not even the first or the second option on a team competing for the playoffs. Gobert is the second or third best player on the Jazz at the moment, and Shaq points out that young players should watch and follow what Gobert is doing because it can land them a life-changing contract that can set you up for the rest of your life.
“You know, you’re not gonna be LeBron. You’re not gonna be Kobe. You’re not gonna be Shaq. You’re not gonna be Garnett. But I think there’s a lot of big guys even today that can do what he can do. So when I tell the story, people think, ‘Oh, you’re just jealous.’ Yeah, I am jealous he’s making $250 (million). One, I’ll say I’m jealous. However, for this game of ours, it can motivate a young kid today to keep the NBA going.”Shaquille O’Neal, via BasketballNews
Even though there was a lot of criticism towards Shaq because of his statements about younger players, all the things he said in this interview made absolute sense. He never hated Gobert, but he admits jealousy, which is normal behavior if you are a human being. Young players should definitely look to Gobert as a role model and someone to patent their game around because his impact, especially on Jazz’s defensive end, is undeniable. It’s also great to see Shaq accepting he made some mistakes when communicating his views on this topic and that he is finally showing respect for Gobert.