Donovan Mitchell loves his haters.
The people who said he’d struggle in high school, who said he wouldn’t play at Louisville, who said he’d never get drafted.
“It helps when people say I can’t do things,” Mitchell says. “I prefer hearing that to the good things, to be honest with you.
Add the Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to the list of people now fueling the Utah Jazz’s All-Star guard.
After Mitchell scored a game-high 36 points to help his team win its seventh straight game, the TNT analyst O’Neal used his postgame interview with Mitchell to take a shot at the Jazzman, questioning whether he had what it takes to be a superstar.
“I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year.”
Spida responds to Shaq’s criticism. pic.twitter.com/F5pkBGCMdA
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 22, 2021
“I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level,” O’Neal told Mitchell on live television. “I said it on purpose. I wanted you to hear it. What do you have to say about that?”
“Aight,” Mitchell replied. “That’s it.”
“OK, cool,” O’Neal said. “I wanted you to hear it.”
“Shaq, I’ve been hearing it from my rookie year,” Mitchell said. “I’m just going to get better and do what I do.”
“OK, good,” O’Neal responded. “That’s what I wanted to hear you say. I love your game brother. Keep it up.”
Was O’Neal, the 15-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion, trying to motivate a young star? Or was the television broadcaster simply trying to create a viral moment?
Mitchell wasn’t too concerned either way.
“We’re on a seven-game win streak right now,” Mitchell said after beating the Pelicans on Thursday. “We’re playing good basketball. I hate to take a win like this and make it about what they said about me.”
Mitchell has been a huge part of the Jazz’s NBA-best win streak, averaging 27.9 points, 4.9 assist and 4.3 rebounds over that stretch.
“He’s efficient right now,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “That means he’s picking his spots. He’s taking what the defense gives him.”
On Thursday night, the All-Star guard kept his team afloat with 13 points during a difficult first quarter. He finished the night with 36 points (11-of-19 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists.
This was the second time this month O’Neal has made his opinion known about a Jazz star. The retired center recently took to Instagram and claimed he would have scored 45 points and had Gobert fouled out in three quarters if he’d ever matched up against him.
Gobert chuckled when asked about O’Neal’s remarks regarding Mitchell.
“Whatever they want to call us, if we keep winning games, they’re going to have to watch us anyway,” Gobert said. “Hopefully they get to watch us until July and then they can call us what they want.”
Jazz point guard Mike Conley also believed the comments would fuel his teammate.
“I’ve been a big fan of Don’s, seeing the way he’s grown the last few seasons,” Conley said. “I don’t know how you can make a statement regarding that and his progress at such a young age. He’s a guy that’s gotten better every year. He’s added to his game. He’ll continue to get better.
“We like to block out all the noise here, but sometimes things leak through and it just motivates Don even more. I’m thankful for that.”