Shaquille O’Neal Continues Good Cop-Bad Cop Routine for Zion Williamson in Latest Inclusion

Published 01/07/2024, 9:26 PM EST

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Shaquille O’Neal is the hardest on his faves. Now that he’s listed his top 5, which consisted of seven youngsters in the league, these stars know to watch out. Zion Williamson has already got a taste of that Big Diesel tough love. But as Shaq and his partner in crime, Charles Barkley reiterated in Zion’s case, their criticism comes from a place of wanting these stars to have a great career.

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While on the Stephen A. Smith Show, the ESPN veteran asked O’Neal to name his picks for the top 5 young players in the league. Honorary mention went to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who Shaq proclaimed was the closest to him in his prime. O’Neal had Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the top, followed by Anthony Edwards and Trae Young with no other reason but how much he likes them.

Shai, definitely,” he told Smith who also agreed. “Anthony Edwards is a hooper, I like Anthony Edwards. I like Trae, I like Ice Trae.” The surprise was Victor Wembanyama because Shaq hasn’t been overt about being his biggest fan and he keeps him cozy at the of the list.

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He went on to list Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Alperen Sengun. “I like Wembanyama at the five. At the four, I like – I hope I say his name correctly – Jaime Jaquez. Coming off the bench, Alperen Sengun from Houston.

 

The 4x NBA champion finally concluded with a plot twist, “Imma throw my boy Zion in there.” Smith was noticeably surprised. After all, he too echoed Shaq and Chuck about the 23-year-old Pelicans star’s weight and conditioning struggles.

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But O’Neal defended his selection that Williamson is invincible when he is all guns blazing. “As long as he decides to turn that switch and leave it on, he’s going to be a problem.” This though doesn’t mean Big Diesel is letting the New Orleans Pelicans star or anyone on the list off the hook for his high expectations.

Shaquille O’Neal’s history with Zon Williamson

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After the Pelicans were eliminated from the NBA Cup, the analysts collectively descended on Williamson. Most point out that his physical condition is affecting his shooting percentage negatively.

Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, who also struggled with their weight throughout their careers, criticized him on Inside the NBA.

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Williamson responded that he’d accept their criticism if it came from kindness or otherwise disregard them. Shaq retorted that it indeed came from a place of concern. “We only criticize people that we like, we only criticize people that we believe in.” 

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O’Neal has indirectly showed he does believe in Zion to be the best. If he reacts to being one of Shaq’s fave by taking his conditioning advice, it’s a win for the big man.

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Written by:

Caroline John

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I was 7 when I saw 'Space Jam' but didn't know till the third rewatch the lead actor is actually a living basketball legend. It was while studying journalism that my friend would go on about the Warriors from Golden State. Keen on athletes' personas outside their arenas, it was Stephen Curry's confidence and philanthropy that drew me to follow the news on NBA pros and explore sports media.
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