Shaq gives Utah Jazz unexpected show of respect

Shaquille O'Neal respects Utah Jazz (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)
Shaquille O'Neal respects Utah Jazz (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images) /

It sounds as if Shaquille O’Neal is making nice with a few Utah Jazz stars.

Appearing on ESPN’s First Take this week, Shaquille O’Neal told Stephen A. Smith that he sees the Utah Jazz as the No. 1 threat to the Los Angeles Lakers “superteam” in the Western Conference next season.

Considering the somewhat harsh words that O’Neal has directed toward Utah centerpieces Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the past, the big man’s apparent sudden belief in the franchise’s 2021-22 potential came as a complete surprise to many viewers.

After O’Neal uttered his answer, it almost seemed as if Smith was unaware of the Jazz’s existence for a second:


O’Neal responded:

“Yeah, you heard what I said.”

Why the Utah Jazz?

Remember, despite flaming out in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Jazz finished the 2020-21 regular season with the outright best record in the league. And as things stand right now, they will return their entire starting lineup plus the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year in Jordan Clarkson and that award’s most recent runner-up in Joe Ingles.

ALSO READ: 60 simple reasons the Jazz will win 60 or more games this season

However, Shaquille O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star who is nowadays a TV personality for NBA on TNT, supported his Utah assessment by pointing to the positive vibes he is feeling from Gobert. At the same time, he essentially promised not to disparage the 7-foot-1 Frenchman this go-round:

“I won’t be so hard on Rudy this year. Rudy [is] coming with a vengeance.”

O’Neal then doubled down:

“Rudy is coming this year.”

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Now, all we can do is keep an eye out throughout the 2021-22 season to see if Shaquille O’Neal can hold to his pro-Rudy Gobert and pro-Jazz sentiments.