“You’re Not Gonna Be LeBron, Kobe”- Shaquille O’Neal Urges Young Players to Follow Rudy Gobert

Published 04/08/2021, 7:30 PM EDT
Mar 24, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) tries to block the shot of Brooklyn Nets guard Tyler Johnson (10) during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports


Shaquille O’Neal has his fair share of problems with the modern NBA. While he was a titan in his generation, the way the game is played has seen a dramatic shift. Teams are focusing more on guards, and even big-men are required to have a competent three-point shot. That has led to sweet-shooting centers like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Karl-Anthony Towns reaching the heights of success.

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However, neither of them are the highest-paid center in the league. That honor goes to Rudy Gobert for signing a massive $205 million extension this season, which has made him the best-paid big-man in NBA history. Shaq has criticized Gobert before, but he chose to give him a backhanded compliment this time.

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“Rudy Gobert is not an average big guy NBA player no more. Because the average big, they’re looking for a guy who can pick and pop and do whatever. Rudy Gobert is big, tall, plays hard, plays great defense. Defensive Player of the Year. But he’s making 200 million. So all you big guys out there?

“Look at him. Follow him. You’re not gonna be LeBron, Kobe, or KG. But I think there’s a lot of big guys even today that can do what he can do.”

Shaquille O’Neal: Compliment or insult?

Shaquille O’Neal is actually setting kids up to have a realistic aspiration in the NBA. It is no lie that Rudy Gobert isn’t the most dynamic offensive player. He is quite old-school in the sense that he still operates as a defense-first big-man that does not leave the paint.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 09: NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal attends the grand opening of Shaquille’s At L.A. Live at LA Live on March 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

Not every kid playing basketball in the park will grow up to have the athletic talents that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant had. They are one-of-a-kind. While Gobert is one-of-a-kind in his own way, he has earned his money through hard work and developing a skill-set to be effective in the modern NBA.

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While Shaq may have meant it as a genuine compliment, it does feel a little odd that he felt the need to say ‘you’ll never be as good as’ about the stars and then say Gobert is achievable. If that was easily achievable, there would be a lot of players heading towards a possible third Defensive Player of the Year trophy in four seasons.

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Ishaan Bhattacharya

1510 articles

Ishaan Bhattacharya is an NBA, NCAA Basketball, and Combat Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Currently, Ishaan is pursuing a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication. Previously, Ishaan has written for The Indian Express, The Quint, Sportskeeda, and WrestleClub.

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