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Shaquille O'Neal engages Donovan Mitchell in awkward interview after 36-point outing

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·4 min read
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Leave it to Shaquille O’Neal to bring down a postgame interview.

O’Neal put Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell in an awkward spot on Thursday night after a 129-118 win against the New Orleans Pelicans that extended the Jazz’s winning streak to seven.

Mitchell delivered an impressive stat line of 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He was11-for-19 overall and 6-of-8 from behind the 3-point line, becoming the fastest player to 600 made 3-pointers in NBA history.

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So it was awkward, even rude, when noted hater O’Neal came at Mitchell in the on-air interview with this:

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“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,” O’Neal said. “I said it on purpose because I wanted you to hear it. What do you have to say about that?”

Maybe O’Neal was trying to start an argument, or stir up drama, or make Mitchell bristle at the remarks. His arguments with Charles Barkley on the show usually make waves on social media and his beef with particular players is a constant thread through his years of analysis.

Mitchell, 24, wasn’t having it and shrugged off the instigation with a shrug in the form of one word.

“Aight. ... That’s it.”

He explained a little further in his postgame video news conference with reporters.

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Jazz players shrug off Shaq’s Donovan Mitchell criticism

Two of Mitchell’s veteran teammates discussed the interview after the game. Rudy Gobert went at it with a wordier shrug.

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Mike Conley was more direct.

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LeBron James, Kevin Durant weigh in

The awkward exchange resulted in a broader conversation about retired players’ sometimes over-the-top criticism of active players, essentially the bread and butter of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” Even LeBron James and Kevin Durant weighed in on Instagram, leaving comments on a post complaining about younger players’ sensitivity to “constructive criticism.”

Both players took issue with that characterization.

James implied O’Neal’s words — literally “you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level” — were more hating than criticism:

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.

Durant said the older players should leave the coaching to their younger counterparts’ coaches:

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

Mitchell is averaging 24.3 points and is shooting at a 40.8 percent clip from 3-point range. It’s the best mark of the fourth-year guard’s career, pushing his effective field-goal percentage to a career-high of 52.9 percent. He’s adding on average 3.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists, another career high, per game.

The Jazz are 11-4 and in second place behind the Los Angeles Lakers (12-4) in the Western Conference standings. But sure Shaq, go off.

Donovan Mitchell.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell didn't engage Shaquille O'Neal in a postgame argument. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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