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Shaquille O’Neal pushes back amid backlash over Donovan Mitchell criticism

Shaquille O’Neal is refusing to back down in his ongoing one-sided feud with Donovan Mitchell despite backlash over his arguably hypercritical remarks about the Utah Jazz star last week.

The firestorm was spawned by how O’Neal made the specious case last week on TNT that Mitchell doesn’t have what it takes to be a true superstar.

After Mitchell scored 36 points to lead the Jazz to a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, O’Neal relayed to Mitchell during a postgame interview what he said earlier in the broadcast, which led to an incredibly awkward exchange.

After essentially blowing off Shaq’s questionable hot take, Mitchell hasn’t had much to say about the situation, although it merits noting that politicians in Utah have cleverly come to his defense amid the fallout.

On the other hand, O’Neal has chosen to double and then triple down on his controversial opinion of Mitchell.

First, O’Neal took to Instagram to curiously boast how having “G14 classification” gives him the clearance, in a word, to make such comments.

O’Neal attempted to bolster his Instagram comment by sharing photographs of himself alongside several prominent teammates from his Hall of Fame career, including Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, among others.

Shaq later upped the ante yet again by sharing another defiant comment in an Instagram story.

“I know what greatness is,” O’Neal wrote. “Ain’t nobody playing done what I’ve done besides LeBron and Steph Curry. I have G14 classification to say what I say. … You betta google me.”

The pushback to O’Neal dragging Mitchell came from everywhere, including superstars LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom responded to a question posed on social media about why young players are so offended by their predecessors offering constructive criticism.

Durant: “Them old heads need to go enjoy retirement. These boys have coaches they work with everyday lol.”

LeBron: “There’s a difference between constructive criticism and soft hating though. I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”

The notion of elder statesman coming down hard on subsequent generations of NBA players is perhaps as old as the league itself. There has always been an “In My Day” narrative that pervades much of the rhetoric from ex-players when it comes to a penchant for looking down on those who have inherited the game they love.

That being said, many have argued that O’Neal took things too far from the get-go with him challenging Mitchell in a live, on-air interview. The fact that the Hall of Famer refuses to walk away from the controversy is perhaps only making matters worse.