‘I Was Just Testing Out’: Shaquille O’Neal Opens Up on His Remarks About Donovan Mitchell

Published 02/27/2021, 12:46 PM EST
Feb 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) goes up for a dunk in the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports


Shaquille O’Neal triggered a massive controversy last month after he told Donovan Mitchell that the Utah Jazz guard doesn’t have what it takes to get to the next level. The NBA community frowned upon O’Neal for his offensive and demotivating remarks, but the Hall of Famer recently delivered an explanation. 

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First things first, here is what O’Neal exactly said to Mitchell during a post-game reaction. The former Lakers player was in the studio when he delivered the words: “You don’t have what it takes to get to the next level.” 

Mitchell had a classy reaction and just replied, “All right,” to O’Neal’s comments, but the NBA community didn’t remain silent. However, after all the accusations, O’Neal finally broke the silence on why he chose to say it to a player of Mitchell’s caliber. 

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Donovan's response when Shaq tells him he doesn't have what it takes to get to the next level:

"Aight." pic.twitter.com/t64PxpeTFD

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 22, 2021

“As a leader sometimes you gotta ruffle some feathers. See a lot of people think this is personal with me. It’s never personal with me,” O’Neal mentioned on ‘The Rich Eisen Show.’

“I got too much going on to make it personal, but hey we’re paid to be objective and it’s my opinion that he wasn’t at that level, but he’s playing at that level now, so you’re welcome. This is what you do as a locker room leader, this is what you do as a leader,” the 48-year-old added. 

Jan 19, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) goes to the basket during the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal offered further insight on why he made that comment

A certain set of people deemed O’Neal as rude and offensive after he made the comment about Mitchell, while some were okay with it since the NBA is a tough league, and these kinds of talks help in motivating an athlete to get better. O’Neal is of the second kind. 

“Phil [Jackson] would always talk to us like that but he couldn’t talk to all the guys like that. I really didn’t know Donovan so I probably could have worded the words a little different, but I was just testing out to see what he was,” Shaquille O’Neal stated. 

“I know he’s a tough kid, so I knew he would be able to take it and he’s playing well and Utah is playing well and I wish him very well,” O’Neal lauded Mitchell. 

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The ‘Big Diesel’ concluded the issue by saying that he’s always in control of what he’s doing, so everything that he does shouldn’t come out as a surprise to others. 

Moreover, one can be assured that the reasons stated by O’Neal are completely genuine. Not many people would want to comment on something that is already controversial, but the four-time NBA champion came out and cleared the air on the issue! 

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Arjun Athreya

1729 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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