Shaquille O'Neal: 'I Respect' Rudy Gobert Standing Up for Himself

Doric SamMay 10, 2022

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 22:  Shaquille O'Neal attends Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on April 22, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

There's been a bit of a debate online in recent days over the prospect of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert defending Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal.

B/R's Taylor Rooks spoke directly to both of them Tuesday, and a respectful exchange occurred between the two big men.

"Yes, I do think I could lock him up," Gobert told Rooks. "I'm never gonna look at someone, whoever it is, and say, 'Yeah, you would score 40 on me.' That's not my mentality. I would love to go against prime Shaq, it would be a great challenge for me."

For his part, O'Neal admired Gobert's mindset and responded, "You know what Rudy, let me tell you something: I respect that. I do."

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O'Neal further explained that he knows that his comments about current players are sometimes perceived as hate, but his true intention is to motivate.

"So a lot of times when I throw jabs, people think it's hate, or whatever," he said. "But it's really, I'm just challenging him, because this thing we have right now is so good, if it continues to be great, everybody will prosper. That's how you gotta look at it."

O'Neal also discussed Gobert's teammate Donovan Mitchell, saying he has the potential to be great and shouldn't be satisfied with being "really good." But he made it clear why his criticisms hold more weight than most media pundits.

"It's never beef. When I speak, I think I speak from experience, and I have G-19 classification to say what I say," O'Neal said. "I'm not one of these other commentators who didn't do anything. You know who I am. You know what I did."

The Jazz finished fifth in the West this season with a 49-33 record to make a sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs. But Utah was bounced in the first round in six games against the Dallas Mavericks despite star point guard Luka Doncic missing the first three games of the series.

After being eliminated, many are wondering if the Jazz will look to move on from either Gobert or Mitchell this offseason.