OK, Kevin Durant doesn’t come across as angry or out for the head. But in stepping up to defend Warriors teammate JaVale McGee, Durant unquestionably channeled LeBron James.
After years of Shaquille O’Neal drubbing McGee, the unquestioned face of the “Shaqtin a Fool” blooper segment of TNT’s Inside the NBA studio show, McGee finally started to aggressively talk back this year. Then last night, those fires burned with greater intensity than ever amid a high-powered Twitter war (of which these are only part).
Here are the full quotes:
“JaVale, he works extremely hard. He’s come in here and done so much for us as a player. And he only wants to be respected like any other player.
“And I understand Shaq works for a company that wants him to do that type of stuff and make fun of players. And it’s cool and funny, but when you just keep doing it time and time and time again for no reason, and then a guy actually disagrees you and you threaten him … I didn’t know cops could threaten civilians like that. So it’s definitely childish. But that’s what they want from these stars and these retired players — to feud with the guys that’s playing now and to make arguments and disagreements. But if I was JaVale, I’d feel the same way. It’s childish.”
“Shaq wants to make a joke about it, but if it was him in that position, he wouldn’t feel the same way. He’ll call him a bum and all this. He was such a great player, obviously, but still, everybody can’t be Shaq. He’s trying to make his money and enjoy the game of basketball, and the perception is now that he’s a dumb player because he made mistakes.
“Shaq was a shitty free throw shooter and he missed dunks and he air-balled free throws. He couldn’t shoot outside the paint. He didn’t have those skills. He was bigger and stronger than everybody. And he still was a great player, but you had your flaws too as a player. And you played on five or six teams, too. So it’s not like you’re just this person center. You had your flaws, too.
“So like I said, I didn’t go on Twitter and threaten civilians like that, so I’m glad you’re getting challenged.”
(Don’t forget that O’Neal is a sworn-in deputy marshal.)
Those are harsh words, albeit a little more civil and more directly relevant to the situation than James’ snide takedown of “hater” Charles Barkley. But the root is the same — particularly the part about them both being paid by TNT to mock current NBA stars.
That opens up a question: Are the NBA’s best players at war with Inside the NBA?
Shaq wasn’t really into fueling anything with Durant specifically.
Certainly, the TNT show pulls no punches. The show is great entertainment because of how irreverent Barkley, O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson are. There’s a lot more joke-making than basketball analysis, and the jokes often come at the expense of the biggest and best players in the game.
Still, it used to be rare that a player publicly goes at Barkley or O’Neal (the two biggest offenders). Mostly, they know they can’t win that battle; simply acknowledging that Barkley or O’Neal got to you is the best way to let them know they’re doing their job. Yet after James took his stand, a lot of other players joined him, including Dwyane Wade and the Warriors’ Draymond Green.
The players aren’t the only ones getting mad. ESPN reports that the Warriors’ organization reached out to TNT with a complaint on this one:
Sources told ESPN that the Warriors contacted Turner officials to express concern about TNT’s yearslong McGee coverage on the “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment on the popular “Inside The NBA” show, with the team contending that the ongoing negative portrayal of the veteran center is doing unnecessary damage to McGee’s reputation.
Part of the problem is these are two former players with massive career résumés. Barkley lacks a ring, but so does Durant, and both are two of the three to five best ever without a championship. O’Neal’s a four-time champ whose career dwarfs all but one current NBA player’s achievements.
Still, the TNT crew has a position of massive visibility. Durant was being a good teammate here and standing up for someone who struggles to command enough respect to defend himself. But what we’re seeing is an increasingly hostile relationship between one of the NBA’s two TV partners and its best players.
How long before it comes to blows?