When reflecting on his days in the league, Shaq looks at today’s game and says there’s “too much crying and boohooing” about NBA refs these days.
There’s a generational battle that’s constantly being waged in today’s game: the notion that better basketball was played in the 1990s, and today’s game is soft in comparison.
To some extent, that’s true across many major sports leagues: rules have changed to increase foul calls on hard-hitting defensive plays, which clears the way for high-scoring offenses that boost television ratings.
And then there’s the man who helped define that defensive era, so much so that he’s still a leading voice when it comes to commentary on the game. Shaq has seen it all through three decades of college and professional basketball, and there’s one thing he’d like to see the next generation bring back to the game: a little toughness, especially when it comes to referee calls.
“There’s too much crying and boohooing about the refs in the league today,” Shaq told FanSided. “I want the young kids coming up to realize sometimes things don’t go your way and just play through it.”
Shaq says that there’s “too much crying” about refs in today’s NBA
Shaq isn’t the only former player-turned-analyst to share this sentiment. After the Boston Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Jalen Rose called out Jayson Tatum for “crying to the refs.”
“Stop crying to the refs,” Rose said. “The one thing I saw early from Tatum is he was looking back for calls, and you gotta play through the physicality — in particular, in the playoffs.”
The officiating has been a dominant storyline throughout the playoffs, culminating in what many believed to be a botched Tony Brothers call against Marcus Smart in Game 5. Beyond the postseason, rule changes over the past 20 years are often a cause for lament among defense-loving basketball fans.
As Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal steps into the league this fall, he does so with lifelong lessons from his father and “immense potential” as a defensive force.
“Something that I’ve told him since he was little is that the work doesn’t stop when you think you’ve made it, in most ways it just gets harder,” Shaq said. “It’s when the real work starts. You are competing against the best of the best every day.”
The rules in today’s game offer the opportunity for players to flop like never before, as well as allowing players to gesture for calls after the play in question. It’s something that younger players will adamantly defend themselves against, but there’s no arguing that the environment in the 1990s allowed for an entirely different type of game.