Shaquille O’Neal Rips Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

May 9, 2022, 1:54 PM
Rudy Gobert #27 (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) and Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner Sports) and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Former NBA great and current TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal jabbed the Utah Jazz and the team’s star players, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

O’Neal discussed the NBA All-Stars and the Jazz during a recent episode of The Big Podcast with Shaq.

Nischelle Turner asked the four-time NBA champion to explain the situation in Utah following the Jazz’s first round playoff exit.

“What’s going on is what I told you all three years ago,” O’Neal answered. “Donovan ain’t that good and the Utah Jazz ain’t that good. Let’s just say it.”

O’Neal continued by labeling Gobert as a great defensive player without an offensive game.

“Rudy’s a great player, a fine defensive player but he offers nothing on the offensive end,” O’Neal said. “Like he has no post moves.”

“I think Rudy can hold you to like 12 points,” Spice Adams interjected.

O’Neale laughed off the statement, “Yeah — in the first three minutes.”

Shaq’s Previous Jazz Jabs

O’Neal has criticized Mitchell, Gobert, and the Jazz in the past.

On January 7, 2021, during a segment of TNT’s Inside the NBA, O’Neal devalued Gobert’s impact on the floor, while fellow former NBA players, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, came to the Jazzman’s defense.

“This guy is one of the best…” Smith argued before O’Neal interrupted him in the playful exchange.

O’Neal took off his glasses before standing and stating that Gobert wasn’t one of the best players in the NBA.

“I’m not gonna hate, but this should be an inspiration to all the little kids out there,” O’Neal said. “You average 11 points in the NBA, you can get $200 million.”

A couple of weeks later, during the halftime show of a nationally televised Jazz game,  O’Neal and Barkley ripped Mitchell for not doing more to elevate Utah’s production.

O’Neal insisted Mitchell would be better served as the second or third option on a championship level team. Barkley and Smith counted the ways Mitchell can’t take over a game, despite the guard posting a 21-point, three-rebound, two-assist first half.

During Mitchell’s walk-off postgame interview with the TNT crew, O’Neal offered Mitchell a critique that felt more like an indictment on the guard’s play than a question about the game leading to a cringeworthy standoff between the Hall of Famer and the All-Star.

“I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose. I wanted you to hear it,” O’Neal told Mitchell. “What do you have to say about that?”

“Aight,” the Jazzman responded.

“That’s it?” O’Neal asked.

“That’s it,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year. You know, I’m just gonna get better and do what I do.”

In a conversation with Yahoo Sports’ LaJethro Jenkins, O’Neal elaborated on his statement.

“When I came at Donovan, the only thing I wanted to hear him say was, ‘Okay OG, watch what I do next,’” O’Neal explained. “I just be like, he great, but he ain’t that great.”

O’Neal told Jenkins he was just trying to read Mitchell’s “temperature” when presented with the opinion, hoping he’d respond with improved play.

He also explained that the controversy may have been born out of how he delivered his critique, rather than the critique itself.

“Instead of listening to how I say it, just listen to what I say,” O’Neal said.

Utah Jazz in 2021-22

This season, the Jazz had a 49-33 record in the regular season and earned the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

Utah fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

During the regular season, Mitchell averaged 25.9 points per game (ninth in the NBA) on 44.8 percent shooting, including 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. He added 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.2 blocks, and 1.5 steals in 33.8 minutes per game.

Gobert averaged 15.6 points on 71.3 percent shooting. He added 14.7 rebounds (first in the NBA), 1.1 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 0.7 steals in 32.1 minutes per contest.

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