NBA All-Star Weekend isn't just a place for the league's best players to shine—it's also home to some of the hottest takes around the Association. Whether it's at Media Day in front of a horde of reporters or in a hotel lobby in front of a lonely recorder, current and former NBA players are being constantly peppered with questions about anything and everything about the league.
With that in mind, Open Floor hosts Ben Golliver and Andrew Sharp spoke with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal during All-Star Weekend and got some of their takes that might be too hot for TV. Chuck and Shaq dished strong opinions about Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, Rich Paul and more in their trademark no-filter fashion.
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Ben Golliver: We just spent an hour face to face with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. Still two of America's preeminent take dishers.
Andrew Sharp: "Takesmen" is what they're called.
Golliver: I was just in awe taking notes. They got off some absolute fire today, didn't they? The takesmen were definitely the highlight of the day. I'm just trying to wrap my mind around everything that Shaq and Charles said, because we got some takes from them on Zion Williamson.First of all, our e-mailers who are convinced that Zion is like a cross between Rodney Rodgers and some other bum that wants out of the league in like two years. Shaq and Charles might be those e-mailers.
Sharp: Our e-mailers are actually perfectly split right down the middle between this. The Rodney Rodgers thing was some guy telling us that Zion was not as good as Rodney Rodgers. Which, look, prime Rodney Rodgers has a lot of belivers out there. I was not really alive for that phase but people who were swear by him. So 50% is hating on Zion and then 50% is acting like he is the messiah.
Golliver: Well, let's just say 100% of Shaq and Chuck don't think he's the messiah. Wasn't Shaq like, 'How tall is he? 6'1"?' Charles was saying he didn't think he had a position.
Sharp: Shaq was like, 'So what he's 6'1", 6'2". And I think you were like, 'No, 6'7".' So he was like, 'Alright, so he's a three so who's he guarding at the next level?
Golliver: They both see complete bust.
Sharp: Don't mischaracterize, they don't see a complete bust. They're just not like all the way in.
Golliver: I'm so far in on Zion that if people are not completely in with me, it's like, 'Ok, you're a hater.' I was hearing them talk about who he's going to guard, he can't really shoot, they're running down the basic checklist of questions about Zion without any of the excitement. I'm still coming at this from Zion being this phenomenon. And I really think this one-name thing is going to be sweeping the league for the next six months. It's going to be Zion, Zion, Zion, just like Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in He Got Game. Shaq, Shaq, Shaq when Shaq was coming up. It's going to be that type of thing. Spoiler Alert: I believe you and I are going to Duke-North Carolina next Wednesday, right?
Sharp: We're going to have a little Open Floor road trip. Open Floor on the open road.
Golliver: We'll get to that later. My point on this was, be honest: Aren't you more excited to see Zion in person on Wednesday than anything that happened at All-Star Weekend?
Sharp: Absolutely. There's a lot there, though. That's my first Duke-UNC game at Cameron, which itself is a real bucket-list item for me. That alone makes people kind of grumbling funny. 'Why's it in Charlotte?' I'm like, thank God it's in Charlotte. It means we get to go see Zion and Duke-UNC.
Golliver. But notice you didn't say R.J. Barrett. You said Zion. You didn't say Cam Reddish.
Sharp: And I actually said Zion before Duke-UNC. so point taken. I thought that the best point I heard was actually from Kenny Smith, who is probably the lesser of the takesmen.
Golliver: He is. He's more refined. He's not going pure heaters.
Sharp: He was sort of drawing a distinction and said Zion is the most unique player we've seen in the last 10-15 years but isn't necessarily the best player we've seen come through and enter the draft in the last 10-15 years, and he compared him to Blake Griffin. Which is actually a good comparison.
Golliver: I think I said that one a couple months ago, as like the way that Blake did not age gracefully that could be my concern about Zion.
Sharp: And I think those concerns are pretty valid. The injury questions are there, but I don't want to come off like a hater, you know what I mean? Maybe it's too late.
Golliver: Get in on this Zion train.
Sharp: You are Mr. Millenial. It's either classic or trash with you.
Golliver: What can I say? In addition to their Zion takes, though, we had Shaq compare himself to the Greek Freak. He said if he came into the NBA, Shaq said he would've been the Greek Freak, he said he would've been trying to bring the ball up and playing point-center.
Sharp: Look, that's a great take. There's no question about it.
Golliver: This is what I mean, they're the takesmen.
Sharp: He was super skilled, and I don't think he would've got anywhere near as fat through the middle of his career. He was still the most athletic guy on the court 95% of the time.
Golliver: He needed Don Nelson to let him just run up the court. He could have been in that crazy TMC system and stayed super skinny the whole way.
Sharp: So here's what I worry about with that theory: Shaq was not necessarily the most locked in Hall of Famer we've ever seen.
Golliver: So if his coach is like a beer-drinking Don Nelson, smoking kind of guy...
Sharp: I could see that going really right and also kind of really wrong. I think it probably worked out better for Shaq. It was fun listening to him, and Shaq is someone who really has kind of grown on me over the years. When he was first on Inside, and it's not really his fault, it's just the Charles and Kenny dynamic with Ernie was so perfect that having Shaq just interject, I would be like, 'Why are you on my TV screen right now?' But since then he's grown on me.
Golliver: One of the meanest things I ever wrote at SI. You know how we do that list of 65 things you're looking forward to at the end of the season? One of our reasons was Kenny, Chuck and Ernie. Period. Not Shaq. Period. So he has pulled himself up, there's no question about it.
I think we might be kind of burying the lede here. We're going to try to do a live drop of one of Charles Barkley's takes. Charles Barkley had maybe the take of the year on Anthony Davis:
Charles Barkley: "Well, don't ruin your reputation as a great player, one of the nicest guys in the world. Remember your agent works for you. You don't work for him. He handled that situation wrong, it's going to come back to bite him in the ass. It's unfortunate because, like I said before the season, I thought he was the second-best player in the world.
He's a great person. But anybody that works for me, I make sure they know we don't work together, they work for me. They're going to do whatever I f---in' say or they're going to get fired. Because you know what? I can get somebody to do what they do. They can't get somebody to do what I do. I said last week and it's gotten worse already. This is a bad situation, it's bad look for the NBA because that kid can't go out there and give it 100% because he's worried about getting hurt. The Pelicans ain't trying to win. And you see already he's had less than three points in the last few weeks. That's ridiculous... I hear all these clowns on TV saying it's great that players are getting all this power. Let me tell you guys something, workers are never going to have power over their ownership ever. It might work for a couple guys, but in the history of the world no workers have ever overtaken people who own a business. And when these guys are sitting at home locked out in a couple of years, I want y'all to remember I told y'all that."
Golliver: Can we just take a moment to recognize the takesmen at his finest. He went at Rich Paul, then Bernie Sanders seamlessly. Who else could do this in the world?
Sharp: From the beginning, he said your agent works for you, you don't work for him. One thing I agree with is this was handled so, so poorly.
Golliver: At Anthony's expense.
Sharp: The only one who really loses in this—
Golliver: Well, there's no winners.
Sharp: Sure, the Lakers and Rich Paul took an L. But he could've really went out on a real high note in New Orleans, and I think everyone who has rooted for New Orleans would have understood if he demanded a trade this summer.
Golliver: Let's not sell Chuck short. He followed it up and said it's rigged. Anthony Davis is eventually going to the Lakers. And then he said the Pelicans are probably going to leave New Orleans.
Sharp: A lot of takes here.