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Shaquille O’Neal: Current NBA players ‘pudding pops’ for inability to take criticism

Shaquille O’Neal ignited a firestorm in January when he refused to back down from arguably dubious and hypercritical comments about a star NBA player.

While things have settled down on the controversy front for the outspoken “Inside the NBA” analyst, it appears Shaq’s perceived perception of the modern-day NBA player was negatively altered even further because of the widespread backlash to his remarks.

Appearing this week on “The Dan Patrick Show,” O’Neal argued that unlike players of his era and the ones that preceded it, today’s NBA player is incapable of listening to constructive criticism from former players without withering under the circumstances.

“I’m just doing what was done to me,” O’Neal told Patrick. “I can remember when I was averaging 30, 35 in L.A., but we were always getting swept. And the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, ‘Hey you guys haven’t won a championship yet.’ Did I whine? Did I cry? Did I complain on social media?

“Nope, I didn’t say anything, because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a chief-14 classification to say that. What am I gonna do? Have a dispute with the greatest NBA player ever? So when he said that, when he gave me constructive criticism, I took it, and I listened, and I brought my game to another level. So these guys now, they’re pudding pops.”

The hullabaloo surrounding Shaq’s hot take on current players all started with a confrontation with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell earlier this season during a live postgame interview on “Inside the NBA.”

O’Neal suggested that Mitchell doesn’t have what it takes to be a true superstar. It led to a spectacularly awkward exchange between Shaq and Mitchell, not to mention pushback from such NBA stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, among others.

After doubling down on his original comments about the Jazz star, O’Neal did attempt to lower the temperature a bit by insisting all he was trying to do was motivate and challenge the young NBA star.

Elder statesman coming down hard on subsequent generations of NBA players is 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 looking down on those who have inherited the game from them.

Shaq is merely continuing that time-honored tradition with his oddly phrased “pudding pop” dig.