By Max Godnick
Not everyone is rooting for the Golden State Warriors to continue their dominance after announcing plans to sign a fifth All-Star in Demarcus Cousins.
And those naysayers can now add the sport's most iconic, bellowing voice to its chorus of criticism.
"I think it's a little bit broken," said Shaquille O'Neal about the state of the NBA in an interview with Cheddar on Friday.
The four-time NBA champion and and 15-time All-Star is no stranger to success on the league's biggest stage. During his 19-year career, he played alongside current and future Hall of Famers including Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. But none of his teams started five of the best players in the league or required the same free-agency acrobatics necessary to construct the Oakland behemoth.
And the unprecedented consolidation of elite talent has some sounding the alarm about the death of the league's competitive balance.
"I just miss the days where guys would compete against each other," O'Neal said, looking back on the storied, and largely equal, rivalries between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and IsiahThomas, and Shaq's own Lakers and Tim Duncan's San Antonio Spurs.
The NBA has seen a social-media-driven renaissance over the past decade. It leads the other major American sports leagues in Twitter and Instagram followers and has spawned a digital ecosystem of memes, hot takes, jokes, and real-time commentary that has allowed its popularity to reach new heights.
O'Neal said the digital landscape created a win-now atmosphere that's fueled the rise of "superteams" like the Warriors.
"There's so much pressure on these kids to win," he said, adding, "everybody wants to be a winner, so a lot of these guys are taking the easy route just to get a championship."
It's hard to say LeBron James is taking shortcuts on his path to winning an elusive fourth title. The superstar just announced he'll sign with the Los Angeles Lakers for a four-year, $154 million contract. But unlike his stints in Miami or Cleveland, James won't be immediately joined by a fellow All-Star on his new team.
"LeBron is going to need a lot more help if he wants to compete with the Golden State Warriors," said O'Neal.
The 'Inside the NBA' analyst played for the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning three championships along the way. He said he thinks James "will do great" on the team, but thinks management should find a way to trade for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard if they hope to put up a fight against the Warriors - a group Shaq called, "the most talented team in NBA history."
For the full segment, click here.