Shaquille O’Neal reacts to fallout from controversial Donovan Mitchell interview
Shaquille O’Neal appears to be finally attempting to lower the heat of the firestorm spawned by his controversial interview last week with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.
The outspoken NBA on TNT analyst drew ire for confronting Mitchell during a live postgame interview following the Jazz’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans. O’Neal suggested that Mitchell, who scored 36 points in the victory, doesn’t have what it takes to be a true superstar.
It led to some cringeworthy awkwardness, to say the least.
Donovan's response when Shaq tells him he doesn't have what it takes to get to the next level:— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 22, 2021
After blowing off Shaq’s dubious hot take, Mitchell has said little about the analyst’s one-sided feud, although members of Utah’s State House have cleverly come to his defense amid the fallout while railing on the NBA Hall of Famer.
On the other hand, O’Neal has chosen to double and then triple down on his controversial opinion of Mitchell with a few defiant social media missives in recent days.
Now, Shaq insists in an interview Thursday that all he was trying to do was motivate and challenge the young NBA star.
"I was just trying to test his temperature!"@SHAQ told @LaJethroJenkins why he had that awkward moment with Donovan Mitchell— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) January 28, 2021
Mitchell’s NBA bona fides are arguably undebatable. A runner-up to Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017-18, Mitchell earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors after averaging 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists in his first season.
The Jazz star went on to earn his first All-Star nod in 2020 and has been the centerpiece on a team that is an NBA-best 14-4 thanks to an ongoing 10-game winning streak.
While Shaq may be telling the truth about his motivations regarding Mitchell, it’s one thing to challenge someone to realize their potential and another to say they are never going to accomplish it.