Shaquille O’Neal has some history with locker room soap operas.
O’Neal’s clashes with Kobe Bryant are legendary in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers won three straight titles with their two superstars, then broke up as egos got in the way. It’s a cautionary tale.
The situation the New Orleans Saints face this season isn’t the same. Drew Brees’ comments to Yahoo Finance on not disrespecting the flag infuriated some teammates, who took to social media to criticize their quarterback.
It’s not the same as the Shaq-Kobe Lakers feud, but O’Neal told the Saints to avoid the same pitfalls.
Shaquille O’Neal to Saints: ‘Stay strong’
Last week, when Brees became a national story for comments he gave to Yahoo Finance about players potentially taking a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to social injustice, O’Neal joined a Saints conference call.
The NBA great had a strong message to the team, according to ESPN.
"They're going to try to divide you, just like they divided us with the Lakers! Me and Kobe [Bryant], we had a great thing going, but the media divided our team," O'Neal said during the Saints’ virtual team meeting, via ESPN. "We could have won five more championships! Stay strong. Don't let the media divide you! Don't let social media divide you!"
O’Neal’s appearance on the virtual team meeting was scheduled before Brees’ comments, ESPN said. O’Neal acknowledged he joined the Saints meeting last week but didn’t divulge what he said.
O’Neal’s message should resonate
O’Neal said on TNT that he was in the virtual team meeting when Brees apologized to his teammates, and O’Neal said the players accepted his apology.
“They said, ‘Drew, we know your character. We know you stepped into some stuff that you can’t get out of, but guess what? We want you to do more, more positive things and less talking,’” O’Neal said on TNT, via Pro Football Talk.
Shaq bringing up the Lakers should resonate with Saints players. Even though it happened a while ago, and “five more championships” might be an exaggeration (but, maybe not), the message was pretty easy to understand.
The Saints and coach Sean Payton will have a challenge this season not letting Brees’ comments disrupt chemistry. New Orleans has the roster to win a Super Bowl, but having the team and quarterback at odds isn’t ideal.
There are issues bigger than football, of course. But when it comes to the football side of things, how the Saints are able to move forward will be a big part of their season.
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