Shaquille O’Neal, who retired after this past season and recently agreed to join TNT’s coverage of NBA basketball, chatted with Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated on the Media Circus Podcast and said media coverage of LeBron James this past season was fair. James, who announced his intentions to take his talents to South Beach during a one-hour ESPN special called The Decision last July, was widely criticized for the narcissistic exercise, which brought additional pressure on the Heat to win. Miami lost in the NBA Finals to Dallas, with James largely a non-factor in many of the Series’ deciding moments.
“I would not characterize it as unfair because like I said, it happened to everyone,” O’Neal said. “It happened to (Michael) Jordan when he went to Atlantic City to get away from the game. It happened to (Charles) Barkley. It happened to (Dennis) Rodman. It happened to Magic (Johnson). It happens to everybody. If it just started this year I would call it unfair, but I’ve been in the game for 20 years and I’ve seen similar stories.”
Deitsch said O’Neal’s decision to choose TNT over ESPN was not surprising.
For starters, Turner’s NBA studios are based in Atlanta (which is closer to O’Neal’s Orlando home) and the once-a-week-schedule is commentator friendly. As is the case with most of ESPN’s talents, O’Neal would have been expected to appear across its platforms, from SportsCenter to ESPN Radio to NBA studio shows.