Shaq Offered Advice To Brown And Tatum About The Best Player Debate Having Gone Through It With Kobe

Shaquille O’Neal knows a little something about being part of a star duo that splits apart due to friction. After Jason Kidd tossed another log on the fire in Boston this week, calling Jaylen Brown the best player on the Celtics, there was no one better equipped to talk about how Brown and Jayson Tatum need to handle that than O’Neal.

As Shaq explained on NBATV’s pregame coverage, the two stars cannot “worry about useless titles” like who is the best player, noting if they start doing that it’ll impact not just Game 2 but could cost them the series. It’s sage advice, but Shaq begins it with a bit of revisionist history, as he said he “knew” he wasn’t the best player on those Lakers teams with Kobe Bryant that three-peated in the early 2000s.

Shaq and Kobe rather famously had differing opinions about who was the best player, and Shaq covers himself a bit here by splitting hairs between “best” and “most dominant.” But I’ve got to say, I’m not sure the guy who once freestyled a diss song asking Kobe “how’s my ass taste” while reminding Bryant he can’t win without him truly thought Kobe was the better player at the time.

While this feels like the product of hindsight (and, some would say, a false statement even in hindsight given how Shaq dominated those Finals), the advice is correct. To win a title, you have to be willing to set aside some of that personal desire to make sure you’re doing everything your team needs you to. For Tatum, that means continuing to make the right reads and passes when the Mavs send doubles, and not try to force yourself into having a big scoring impact on the series. For Brown, it’s continuing to be a two-way force and attack when opportunity presents itself, but be willing to do the same if Dallas adjusts their defense to send more help his way.

During their three-peat, Shaq and Kobe were always able to rise to the occasion and set aside any differences to do what was needed to win championships, even if they ultimately drove them apart. Brown and Tatum have been saying the right things all postseason, and we’ll get firm confirmation on Sunday night as to whether they’ve taken that to heart and will continue keeping their focus on the ultimate prize.