Utah Jazz: NBA legend clarifies Donovan Mitchell comments

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports) /

When Shaquille O’Neal speaks, people have a tendency to listen. Maybe it’s the excess of bass in his voice, or maybe it’s the first-ballot, no question Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame resume. Last season, the Big Aristotle made some remarks in a post-game interview with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell that many felt were less than philosophical.

“You don’t have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose, and I wanted you to hear it”, O’Neal told the young guard after a 36-point performance on January 21st.

His comments sparked an understandable amount of anger among Utah Jazz fans and general NBA observers alike. Even politicians came to Mitchell’s defense. Recently, O’Neal took to the airwaves to re-open the conversation around his controversial comments . 

“I played with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, D-Wade, LeBron James, Steve Nash, and if you ain’t on that level, I don’t know what  great is” said O’Neal.

“He’s a great player, (and he’s) on his way”.

On the surface, it’s hard to argue with O’Neal: even the most ardent Utah Jazz supporter would be forced to concede that Mitchell is not on the same level as any of the Hall of Famers O’Neal named in his recent interview.

On the other hand: water is wet.

Donovan Mitchell is a former 13th overall pick who is about to head into his 5th NBA season. It should come as no surprise that he has a ways to go before he merits comparisons to Shaq’s esteemed list of elite former teammates.

To O’Neal’s credit, it seems as though this has been no more than a clumsy attempt to motivate the young Utah Jazz guard to reach those lofty heights. While that may be so, one wonders whether O’Neal’s comments may have been more effective in a private conversation.

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Either way, Donovan Mitchell should enter the 2021-22 season motivated to elevate his game and Utah Jazz squad, whether O’Neal thinks he “has what it takes” or otherwise.