It’s well established at this point that Shaquille O’Neal’s grouchy, thin-skinned old-timer act is wearing down the patience of plenty of the NBA’s current stars. And late last night, after the Nuggets blew out the Bucks, the big man seemed especially annoyed by an intelligent discussion of basketball and somehow came off like a dude who hasn’t played since high school.
Sitting in the studio with Candace Parker and Dwyane Wade, rather than his more regular partners Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, Shaq did his best to derail a pretty solid conversation about the pick-and-roll between the two younger analysts. For a casual viewer, Wade and Parker’s breakdown of how Nikola Jokić wreaks havoc on defenses was maybe a bit tricky to follow (especially without any visual aids), but the way Shaq just dive-bombs in with weirdly basic questions, then gets moody and jealous when they’re answered, makes him the clear doltish villain of this interaction.
Parker, for her part, is quick to explain that switching is the norm in the modern NBA because so many players, with just a little bit of space gained by a pick, can easily escape their man for the time they need to nail a three. Wade joins in, has a mild laugh at his old teammate’s expense, and the whole thing briefly gains the easygoing vibe of two kids explaining Netflix to their grandfather.
That is, until you remember that the old man is a Hall of Famer whose literal job is to talk about present-day NBA games, but instead tries to deny the existence of the three-point shot. Shaq, apparently sensing that he’s lost the upper hand, triumphantly brings up his title with Wade on the Heat, then, as the subject starts to shift, refuses to let things go.
Shaq: Are ever going to get back to where we man up and pre-rotate?
Wade: It’s not the game today.
Shaq: OK, just asking.
Parker: Too good a shooters.
Shaq: Everybody’s not too good of a shooter, Candace, stop it.
Parker: You said nobody on the court—
Shaq: I said everybody’s not shooting like that. It’s only a couple teams that shoot like that. [Parker looks incredulously at Wade] Don’t look at him! Everybody’s not shooting a high percentage from three, Candace.
Parker: OK, are we saying everybody in general or a majority? On the Nuggets, if you pre-rotate, they’re going to kill you from the corner three. What did they shoot from the three? They shot 11-of-30, so they shot 36 percent. This was an off night.
Wade then helpfully saves the segment from further awkwardness with his enjoyment of how quickly Parker pulled out that stat and did the math. But unfortunately for Shaq, his old reputation as a goofy giant who was practically unmatched in his sport seems unsalvagable.