By now, you may have heard that TNT analysts Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley got into a heated exchange May 8 surrounding (the recently-fired) Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey’s decision to bench DeMar DeRozan in the midst of an embarrassing sweep for the East’s No. 1 seed. O’Neal punctuated the debate telling Barkley, “Google me.”
The tense words began when Barkley said that Casey disrespected his best player with the benching and that “if you don’t have a great relationship with your best player, you’re never going to win.” O’Neal retorted that he and Pat Riley never saw eye-to-eye, so “it’s not true what you’re saying.”
The conversation continued from there, with Barkley (correctly) pointing out that Dwyane Wade carried the team before Shaq conceded that he was a role player at that stage of his career. (He wasn’t even the best center of the 2006 NBA Finals, an honor that goes to Alonzo Mourning.)
But the argument unraveled from there, with O’Neal telling Barkley, “you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to championships” and “you got babied, that’s why you ain’t win.” Barkley responded, “I didn’t have Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant carrying me up and down the court.”
The exchange was a classic case of Shaq’s pride getting in the way of Barkley’s point. The fact that O’Neal and Riley had well-documented rifts doesn’t challenge the notion that teams don’t win when the coach doesn’t have a relationship with their best player. O’Neal wasn’t the best player on that team.