Shaq addresses Zion comparisons
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. On the court, he was absolutely unstoppable.

Since retiring, however, the Hall of Famer has developed a reputation for being something of a hater when it comes to younger players in the league. As such, when O’Neal appeared on a podcast to discuss — among other things — Zion Williamson, many were curious to hear how he’d handle the situation.

The first question O’Neal addressed was whether it was unfair to compare Williamson to greats like himself at this stage.

“It’s a, wouldn’t say it’s dishonor, but, it’s that, when you get compared to the greats, people see something in you. Now, I was taught that being great is about being super consistent. Whenever I had two or three bad games in a row, I would get the call from the board, ‘Hey man, what you’re doing? Great guys don’t do this, Kareem never had to be like.’

“So, it should be out. He’s putting up good numbers, he’s playing hard, he’s playing well. I don’t think he should look at it as a disservice… He can possibly be better.”

O’Neal also pointed out that he could serve as someone Williamson can strive to beat, much like Wilt Chamberlain was for him.

“I was going after one guy, Wilt Chamberlain, I wanted to break all his records,” he said. “I beat him in championships, I wanted to beat him in points. So, I was going to arrogantly say, 'I’m Shaquille O’Neal, I’m the most dominant player ever.'”

To be clear, Williamson has played in 77 career games up to this point. O’Neal played more than that in his rookie campaign alone. There is still plenty of time for Williamson to develop into the player everyone knows he can be.

Until he does, critical takes like the one offered by Karl Malone recently may continue to follow him around.

This article first appeared on Game 7 and was syndicated with permission.

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