Shaq roasted for Nikola Jokic-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander MVP take after Nuggets, Thunder’s playoff fortunes change

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 14, 2024

During the day of the announcement of the 2024 MVP winner, a member of the illustrious TNT Inside the NBA crew, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, made it clear to the winner of the award, Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, that he thought Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a more deserving awardee.

Shaq usually has strong opinions on big men and their legacy and how it affects his place on the all-time totem pole. But it seemed rather disrespectful, as much as O’Neal would contend that he meant no harm, that he would tell Jokic on national television, in front of millions, that someone else should have won the MVP award.

But now, it seems like Nikola Jokic is having the last laugh. Since being in that interview with Shaquille O’Neal, the Nuggets have proceeded to win two games on the road of their hotly-contested second-round matchup against a Minnesota Timberwolves that seemed to have them on the ropes. Meanwhile, Gilgeous-Alexander’s Oklahoma City Thunder have lost twice during that same period, falling behind to the Dallas Mavericks 2-1 in that series.

As a result, fans have once again pointed out how insecure Shaq can be about his legacy now that Jokic is reaching a level of individual glory that The Diesel didn’t during his playing days.

“Shaq is insecure af Imagine being regarded as one of the greatest centers of all time but still using the whole ‘I got 4 rings’ thing with Charles and being sensitive as hell,” one Reddit user wrote. Another one added, “Jokic’s career will be better than shaqs when it’s all said and done, he can keep hating all he wants.”

One fan, however, pointed out that Shaq was well within his rights to express his opinion on the MVP race. They just didn’t take too kindly to the poor timing and ridiculous avenue that he expressed it in when he basically told the Nuggets star in front of his face that he did not deserve his award.

“There’s nothing wrong with being honest and having your own opinion. He thought SGA is the MVP and SGA is worthy. It’s how he delivered his message, and very rude because of the timing,” the Redditor wrote.

But the end result, as it always seems to appear to some, is that Shaq will say that he was merely motivating Nikola Jokic by slighting him.

“Shaq before tonight’s show is over: You’re welcome for the motivation Joker,” another Redditor expressed.

Of course, things can still change and Shaq may very well be vindicated in the end. The Nuggets have just tied up the series against the Timberwolves, while the Thunder have a lot of time to try and regain control of their series against the Mavericks. But it’s not looking good for the Big Aristotle right now.

Nikola Jokic lifts the Nuggets, justifies his MVP award

The Timberwolves posed a lot of matchup problems for the Nuggets; they are huge at every position, except at point guard where Mike Conley is, and they have the size to deal with Nikola Jokic without having to put Rudy Gobert on him at all times. But despite the Timberwolves’ best efforts, Jokic remains the league’s most unsolvable puzzle.

Jokic put up 35 points on 15-26 shooting in the Nuggets’ 115-107 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday night to even up the series, and he embraced the physicality of the matchup without having to resort to hero ball. He still kept the ball moving while striking the very delicate balance between taking the responsibility to lift the team upon himself and relying on his teammates to make the right plays.

At the moment, Nikola Jokic is the best player in the NBA, and that must be regarded as a fact until further notice.

Thunder’s two losses are not on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Fans can go on all day about how Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should not have taken a contested stepback three in the dying moments of the Thunder’s 105-101 loss to the Mavericks on Saturday afternoon. But Gilgeous-Alexander was the only one to show up in all three games of the series, and his play during the Thunder’s two recent losses have done nothing to change the idea that he too was deserving of winning the MVP award.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging his customary 31 points over the first three games of the series, and he has been playing his heart out on the defensive end as well while racking up an eye-popping number of defensive stats. It’s not his fault particularly that they have fallen behind in the series. SGA will need his teammates to wake up, especially when the Mavericks have been buoyed by a hot streak from trade deadline acquisition PJ Washington.