SALT LAKE CITY — After an 11-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, Donovan Mitchell was the star of the show. The 2020 NBA All-Star dropped 36 points on only 19 shots, dished out five assists and pulled down seven rebounds to help the Jazz get the win.
As Mitchell walked off the court after the game he was pulled into an interview with the crew from “Inside the NBA” on TNT — Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.
At halftime of the same game, O’Neal made some comments questioning Mitchell’s ability to “get to the next level.”
“I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players, but you don’t have what it takes to get to that next level,” O’Neal told Mitchell during the postgame interview. “I said it on purpose, I want you to hear it. What do you have to say about that?”
Mitchell awkwardly responded with, “Aight, that’s it.” He later added, “Shaq, I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year. I’m just going to get better and do what I do.”
On Tuesday during a session at the Utah Legislature, the House floor had some fun with those comments as Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, sported a Mitchell jersey and Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, the sponsor of a resolution supporting Mitchell, wore a referee jersey.
Birkeland also is a basketball referee when she is not a legislator at the State Capitol.
The resolution included highlighted provisions that would make the “Spida” the official state arachnid and recognize the service Mitchell has given to the Jazz and the Utah community.
The resolution then went on to target O’Neal, mentioning that, “in Utah, we support our players when they face awkward abuse during post-game interviews disguised as pep talks.”
Another line said, “The claim by Shaquille O’Neal on January 21, 2021, that Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell Jr. doesn’t have what it takes to get to the next level is even less accurate than his 50.4% playoff free-throw percentage (slightly worse than Donovan’s 88.1%).”
As the resolution went on, it continued to bring up other points on O’Neal. This included the Jazz knocking the Lakers out of the playoffs in 1997 and 1998, O’Neal winning his titles because he was carried by Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, Rudy Gobert having more Defensive Player of the Year awards and more.
The resolution finished by throwing O’Neal an assist by recognizing the impact he has had on communities throughout America through donations and his position as an all-time NBA great.
After the reading of the resolution, it was left open for debate and discussion on the House floor.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, of District 65, which covers areas of Utah County, cited his childhood in Louisiana where he watched O’Neal play at Louisiana State University and went on to explain why he would be voting “no” on the resolution.
“(O’Neal) does have a unique way of getting into people’s psyche and getting in their head,” Gibson said. “Not only has he gotten into the head of Donovan Mitchell, but I’m sure that everyone who votes ‘yes’ on this, he would rent some space in your head as well. With that, I will be voting ‘no’ on this, but I do support our Jazz, I do support Donovan Mitchell, I do hope that they get what’s coming to them and have a great season. Let’s not let the good Mr. Shaquille O’Neal rent space in your head for very long.”
Other representatives discussed Shaq’s free throw percentage, their support for the Jazz and more.
As the conversation went on, many laughs could be heard from other representatives.
At the end of the discussion on the resolution, Birkeland awarded Shaq with a technical foul from the state of Utah. The resolution passed the House with 67 “Yea” votes and 5 “Nays.”
Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, said the resolution was a bit of fun for the representatives.
“I think the resolution really speaks to how we feel about the Jazz and more specifically about Donovan,” Maloy said. “We’re a proud group of people as citizens, for our Jazz. On a serious note, it really shows that we have that respect and love for our NBA team. I think there is a mutual respect, and it was one of those things where, ‘What is Shaq saying?’ I think we all respect Shaq, and we certainly respect the Jazz and Donovan.”
Maloy continued, mentioning that integrating fun into the legislative sessions happens more often than people think. He said it is hard to not have fun with so many people from across the state in one room.
He added while having fun, the representatives also take their roles seriously. This was shown when the House transitioned from the Mitchell resolution and into the topic of concealed carry without a permit.
“We’re here to do the business of the people,” Maloy said. “It’s a very serious responsibility but I think it’s good for us to let our hair down a little bit every once in a while and let people know that we are human.”