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Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley get in heated argument during MVP debate

The race for MVP is heating up as the 2020-21 season enters its final stretch, and a debate over the matter on Thursday’s “Inside the NBA” devolved into a shouting match between Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley.

The heated exchange between the two outspoken NBA on TNT analysts primarily centered around how the crew, save for Shaq, appear to believe Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić has rightfully earned the MVP hardware with such an outstanding season. O’Neal, on other hand, believes Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid deserves MVP honors.

That’s when the debate took a turn into ugly territory.

“Ya’ll just hating now,” Shaq said. “Your criteria is not potent enough for me y’all are hating.”

Barkley countered O’Neal’s Embiid case by pointing out how the Sixers star’s inability to remain healthy should preclude him from winning MVP.

“Hating because the dude missed 20 games!” Barkley said in response to Shaq’s accusation, as transcribed by Mediaite. “He didn’t miss five games, he didn’t miss seven games, he’s basically had 20 in a 72 games season.”

“What about LeBron?” Barkley continued. “If you’re not going to penalize guys for missing games, LeBron should be the MVP.” But Shaq argued LeBron James hasn’t been able to build on his numbers since getting sidelined by a sprained ankle earlier this season.

“Because he wasn’t playing, fool!” Barkley fired back. “His numbers didn’t go down when he wasn’t playing!”

The tensions surrounding the contentious back-and-forth between Sir Charles and Shaq reared its ugly head again later in the telecast.

O’Neal and Barkley getting into a shouting match is of course business as usual on “Inside the NBA,” and it’s part of the reason why the program is widely regarded as the best sports studio show in television history. The fact that Shaq didn’t threaten to punch Barkley — again — is a testament to how things could have gotten even further out of hand than what played out on Thursday night.