Shaquille O’Neal has been getting exposed as an analyst on “Inside the NBA” all season. The Hall of Fame center got called a ‘casual’ by Christian Wood for not knowing who he was. He called Nikola Jokic ‘Russian’ when he’s actually Serbian. Shaq also gave unnecessarily harsh criticism to Donovan Mitchell during an interview which led to an extremely awkward moment of television.
As an analyst, O’Neal seems less interested in celebrating what makes the NBA so great today and more interested in protecting his own legacy. Today’s players don’t impress Shaq because they are not Shaq. Beyond just failing to appreciate the current generation of stars, O’Neal also doesn’t really seem to understand how and why the game is played differently right now than it was during his heyday.
Candace Parker illuminated Shaq’s failure to understand modern basketball during another uncomfortable segment on “Inside the NBA” on Tuesday night. As the show discussed another amazing performance from Nikola Jokic — who just might be MVP right now — Parker had to patiently explain to Shaq why there is no easy way to defend the Denver Nuggets superstar.
As Parker tried to spell out why NBA teams switch so often defensively now, Shaq said teams need to “man up” and fell back into a tired argument about his rings. The entire sequence underscored Shaq’s ongoing refusal to recognize why the game has evolved since his era.
O’Neal isn’t totally wrong about one thing: often times, teams will give up switches too easily against star bigs like Jokic. The issue is that Shaq doesn’t at all understand why switching is necessary and how the influx of three-point shooting in recent years has changed the equation for defensive schemes.
“If you have four to five three-point shooters on the court, you’re not going to rotate enough times,” Wade said.
Shaq just doesn’t seem interested in learning anything new about the game at this point in his life. He’ll praise the big men who came before him and blast the current players. It’s clear he’s defensive about the emphasis on the outside shot and the diminished importance of post scoring. In reality, Shaq is watching a current brand of basketball where he knows his game wouldn’t be as effective, especially after he lost his peak athleticism.
Shaq is an all-time great and of course would have been an all-time great in any era. The way the game has changed shouldn’t feel like a threat to his legacy, but it’s been clear all season he’s insecure about it. Meanwhile, Parker deserves praise for her knowledge and patience. Listening to her talk, you can tell Parker is still an effective player today even at 34 years old. Meanwhile, Shaq really sounds like someone who retired 10 years ago.
Shaq doesn’t have to be this way. Plenty of retired players, like Allen Iverson, show love and respect for today’s generation without feeling threatened by them. O’Neal has a lot to learn, and his gimmick as an analyst is starting to get tired.