Boston Celtics

Shaquille O'Neal gives wise advice to Jaylen Brown during NBA Finals

"Who’s the man? Don’t matter who the man is."

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Shaquille O'Neal knows a thing or two about winning NBA championships as part of an elite duo, so he's as qualified as anyone to give advice to Boston Celtics superstars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

O'Neal and Kobe Bryant won three straight championships together with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 through 2002. But throughout their eight years as teammates, there were constant debates among the media and fans about which of the two superstars was the better player and which one was more responsible for the team's success.

O'Neal and Bryant were all business on the court and dominated at a level rarely seen. They are remembered as one of the top five duos in league history, and winning titles is the biggest reason for that.

Brown and Tatum face plenty of scrutiny of their own. Pundits have been trying to divide them for years. Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd even tried to create a distraction before Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Finals by saying twice in one press conference answer that Brown is the Celtics' best player.

Neither Brown nor Tatum took the bait when asked about Kidd's comments, and they both played important roles in the Celtics' Game 2 win on Sunday night, which gave Boston a 2-0 series lead.

After the victory, Brown joined the NBA TV postgame show, where O'Neal gave the young star some wise advice.

It led to a funny exchange.

“I’m going to give you some G-14 classification information because this is going to be the last time you see me,” O’Neal told Brown. “It’s a riddle. Do not get fixated on useless titles. Do what you gotta do. It doesn’t matter who’s who or they say who’s what. It ain’t time for all that right now. Do what you gotta do and get it done.”

When asked if he understood that, Brown said, with a laugh, "No."

“OK, well, let me break it down,” O’Neal continued. “They’re trying to separate you and your guy by saying who’s better. I’m saying, don’t worry about useless titles. ‘Who’s the man?’ Don’t matter who the man is. Kobe’s the man. Shaq’s the man. Don’t matter. I’m getting my 40. Kobe’s getting his 39. Let’s go win these championships. That's what that meant.”

O'Neal eventually got his point across, and it's a good one.

It doesn't matter whether Brown or Tatum is better, and it doesn't matter if one of them wins Finals MVP -- assuming the Celtics eventually eliminate the Mavericks. The only thing that matters for Brown and Tatum, and the Celtics as a whole, is finally winning Banner 18. That's it.

Tatum and Brown know that, and it's evident in their play. They're not chasing stats or credit. They will do whatever it takes to win. Some games that means scoring 30 points, and on other nights it's rebounding and playing elite defense. Getting the job done is by far the most important objective.

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