OAKLAND -- The long-simmering acrimony between retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and Warriors center JaVale McGee reached epic proportions late Thursday night and early Friday morning when the two engaged in a Twitter beef.
By Friday afternoon, Kevin Durant was stepping into the fray. He didn’t bother with Twitter, instead speaking his mind and firing verbal grenades at Shaq.
“JaVale works extremely hard,” Durant said after practice. “He has come in here and done so much for us as a player. He only wants to be respected, just like anybody else. And I understand that Shaq works for a company that wants him to do that type of stuff, and make fun of players. 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 with you? And you threaten him? I didn’t know cops could threaten civilians like that.”
O’Neal currently is a reserve police officer in Doral, Fla. He also has served in that capacity in several other cities.
The latest O’Neal-McGee spat began when O’Neal, now an analyst at TNT who frequently targets McGee for ridicule, presented a video Thursday night that mocked McGee. It was very personal.
McGee took offense and responded on Twitter, which led to the two men exchanging insults, with McGee accusing O’Neal of “cooning,” and O’Neal calling McGee “dumb” and threatening to “smack the s--t out” of McGee.
Though McGee was not available Friday, he was sharply defended by Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Durant.
“It’s definitely childish,” Durant said. “But that’s what they want from these stars and these retired players, is to feud with the guys that are playing now and make arguments and disagreements. 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 would feel the same way.
“Everybody can’t be Shaq. He’s trying to make his money and enjoy the game of basketball, and his perception of him is that he’s a ‘dumb’ player because he makes mistakes on the court. Shaq was a sh---y free-throw shooter. He missed dunks. He air-balled free throws. He couldn’t shoot outside the paint. He was bigger than everybody. He didn’t have any skill. But he was bigger and stronger than everybody.”
Durant then turned his head and seemed to speak directly to O’Neal.
“He was still a great player, but you had your flaws too as a player,” he said. “And you played on five of six teams, too. So it’s not like you’re this perfect center. You had your flaws too. Like I said, I didn’t know cops could go on Twitter and threaten civilians like that. I’m glad JaVale challenged him.”
Kerr, who has known O’Neal for more than 20 years, also came to McGee’s defense.
“I don’t blame him for being frustrated,” he said Kerr. “Shaq’s been picking on him for years and years and years. And JaVale, rightfully so, probably gets frustrated. It never ends. And it’s one thing to just have a little fun, but you can go a little bit over the top.
“It’s one of those things. If you think about JaVale’s career, when you’re in this position where someone is on national TV making fun of you night after night, it’s not the greatest thing for your reputation.
“I can tell you, I had a preconceived notion of JaVale before he got here that turned out to be totally false. And a lot of that was because of what goes on with Shaq’s ‘Shaqtin’ A Fool’ thing.”
Shaq responded to Durant Friday on Twitter, writing "@KDTrey5 mind yo business this ain't for you," and "@KDTrey5 I understand u sticking up for your teammate that's cool but your boy @JaValeMcGee34 is still a bum, he started it I'm a finish it."