Shannon Sharpe delivers a healthy serving of truth in his beef with Shaquille O’Neal

OPINION: Shaq dropped a diss track after he was criticized by Sharpe. Sharpe’s response: Did you really do everything necessary to be the best?

(L-R) Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images); Shannon Sharpe (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for iHeartRadio)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.  

For far too long in too many places, too many Black boys have dreamed too much of becoming two things: athletes or rappers. Not white-collar professionals or blue-collar workers. Not small business owners or government officials. Not firefighters, EMTs or the po-po.

It’s a problem with no easy answers or quick fixes. Athletes and rappers are leading role models even when their comportment is less than desirable. Doctors and lawyers don’t act right at times, either, but their disputes are less likely to become fodder for multimedia content. 

That’s not the case with Hall of Fame athletes-turned-broadcasters Shaquille O’Neal and Shannon Sharpe, who slipped into Drake-Kendrick mode last week. 

We’re accustomed to rap beefs resulting in diss tracks where foes attack each other’s bona fides, lyrics, character and life choices. That’s a poor example for the kids, but at least it produces new music. O’Neal dabbles in rap (and did it again Friday) but he primarily produced no-class behavior while sparking this feud.

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić won another NBA MVP award, his third, and was interviewed Wednesday on TNT. O’Neal didn’t just rain on Jokić’s parade. He took a dump on Jokić’s trophy. 

“You know I love you. Best player in the league, and I want to congratulate you, but I want you to hear it from me first,” O’Neal said when “The Joker” appeared onscreen. “I thought that [Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander] should’ve been the MVP. That’s no disrespect to you.”

Too late for that lame disclaimer. Jokić received more than five times as many first-place votes as SGA, who came in second. The polls were closed. O’Neal didn’t need to share the fact that he backed an also-ran in the race. Jokić came on the show to accept flowers, not deflect barbs.

Never mind that O’Neal began by proclaiming himself “president of the big man alliance,” calling Jokić the vice president. Who died and gave O’Neal the title? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is still alive, and he’s generally considered the greatest center of all time, typically followed by Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and then Shaq. 

The segment reeked of petty jealousy — perhaps Jokic’s three MVP awards to O’Neal’s one? Sharpe couldn’t take it. 


“I think a part of Shaq — he might not ever admit this — but Shaq sees these guys winning these MVPs and is a little envious,” Sharpe said on his “Nightcap” podcast.  “Shaq should have five MVPs. Shaq should have seven titles. … Shaq is never brought up in those discussions when it comes to GOAT. … He’s never in front of Kareem. He’s never really in front of Russell.”

The hit dog hollered like a petulant child and responded in rapper fashion. Shaq dissed Sharpe on social media and dissed him in the studio, using rap’s pre-K level of attack: I’m better than you, richer than you, more famous than you, etc.

To be fair, O’Neal didn’t ask Sharpe for an armchair psychoanalysis. But both men are media celebrities who make truckloads of money off yapping. And it makes sense if O’Neal is a wee bit resentful and begrudging as Jokić wins a third MVP in four years. 

We wouldn’t be surprised if Shaq harbors secret thoughts that perhaps his commitment to fitness and max effort never really matched his sheer physical dominance. Yes, he was great enough to win three Finals MVPs with the Lakers. But Kobe Bryant questioned O’Neal’s conditioning and desire just like Sharpe.

Sharpe, who displayed a legendary work ethic during his Hall of Fame career, didn’t wait long in responding to the diss track. If the words were hurtful, O’Neal hurt himself.

“I’ve never professed that I was as great as Shaq,” Sharpe posted. “But what I will say: I got what I got because I worked my ass off. … My question is: Do you believe that you gave everything you possibly could in basketball? Did you train the way you should have? Did you eat the way you should have?

“He’s the most dominant big man in the history of the game, and he’s got one MVP. Yeah, you got more money. Yeah, you’re more famous than me. Yeah, you’re more well-known. You’re gonna have way more money than I ever have, but nobody will ever say that I was lazy or I cheated myself.”

Jokić, who may be the least athletic MVP ever, caught a stray in this beef between a seventh-round NFL pick (1990) and a No. 1 overall NBA pick (1992). But Sharpe offers a valuable lesson to all the Black boys fixated on athletes and rappers (and any other Black men in any other law-abiding endeavor).

Giving your all is all you can give. 

Don’t let yourself down.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at