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Shaq Dished Out Some Rare Praise For Nikola Jokic After Game 1 Of The NBA Finals

Nikola Jokic posted his ninth triple-double of the 2023 NBA Playoffs on Thursday night, scoring 27 points, dishing out 14 assists, and pulling down 10 rebounds in a 104-93 Game 1 win over the Miami Heat to open the NBA Finals.

It was an impressive display from the two-time MVP, who looked as dominant as ever against a Heat team that struggled for the first three quarters to slow down the Denver offense. While things got a bit tighter in the fourth quarter, Denver did what the Celtics struggled to do, which was right the ship and close out the win — with Jokic going to work as a scorer to ice things down the stretch.

After the game, Jokic joined the NBA TV crew on the court to discuss the win, taking a seat alongside Shaq, Charles Barkley, Grant Hill, and Matt Winer. It was rather jarring seeing how excited Shaq in particular was to talk to Jokic, as we’ve seen him for years bury bigs in the league for not dominating as he thinks they should, and the love was mutual between the Hall of Famer and Jokic, who couldn’t help but get a joke in about how Shaq was the guy who he modeled his game after growing up.

As the interview concluded, Shaq wanted to take a moment to give Jokic some rare props on the air. Shaq noted he’s not one to heap praise on bigs, but after finally getting to see Jokic up close and in person, he had to show love to the big fella and formally induct him into the Big Man Alliance.

It’s genuinely cool to see Shaq do this considering we’ve spent a decade listening to him take jabs at bigs for not dominating inside, and while Jokic doesn’t go about his business the same way Shaq did, O’Neal can’t help but appreciate the ways he controls the game and, when needed, gets it done in the post. You can tell it means a lot to Jokic to get that kind of praise from Shaq (and Charles, who also had lots of love for him), as he lit up as he joined the Hall of Famers for the postgame discussion.

Shaq also really, really wants to hang out with Jokic’s brothers, both starting and ending the interview by telling Jokic to introduce them.