“I like being proved wrong,” Shaquille O’Neal said. “So my message to these young cats, when I say something — prove me wrong.“
This is how Shaq rationalized his criticism of today’s NBA players, unveiling he too had to deal with it during his playing days – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the loudest Shaq critic. And while no one doubted Kareem’s benevolence, the same can’t be said about O’Neal. Especially when he’s talking about modern NBA big men – his appearance on the “Scoop B Radio Podcast” was no different.
The game is evolving. Us older big guys don’t look at it as evolving. We look at it as soft because guys don’t want to get down there and bang. Which is okay.Shaquille O’Neal, Scoop B Radio Podcast
Shaq might’ve said he’s okay with it, but there’s a long track record of him disrespecting today’s centers. And he’s not the only one. So many former NBA players, especially big men, have a problem with seven-footers turning into outside shooters. We’re almost a decade into the 3-point era, and they still can’t wrap their minds around it.
New era new generation, I can’t tell them how to play. I can’t tell them what to do.Shaquille O’Neal, Scoop B Radio Podcast
The evolution of big men is a by-product of the whole game gravitating more and more towards the three-point line. That’s a thing Shaq needs to understand; the seven-footers didn’t initiate the change; they are simply doing their best to adapt.
That’s not to say he’s wrong to call someone out for refusing to “get down there and bang” when it’s necessary. Because the fact of the matter is, we see something like that happen more often than it should – Anthony Davis refusing to play the five is the obvious example.
That’s the main source of O’Neal’s frustration; seeing guys with unmatched physical gifts not utilizing them properly and embracing the finesse game instead. Because no matter the era, overpowering defenders works – Giannis‘ decision to play to his strengths led the Bucks to a championship.
So put yourself in Shaq’s shoes; you’re one of the most dominant forces in NBA history, and you’ve made a living out of overpowering guys in the paint. A decade later, your successors, who were blessed with similar physical gifts, refuse to follow your lead. Would you be frustrated? Especially when you have an all-time great resume to back up your words? I would.
Let’s just hope someone will actually listen to Shaq and initiate the return of traditional post-up play. Nothing against the three-point era, but the game could definitely use some variety.