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“Ain’t Gonna Be Another Shaquille O’Neal In Our Life”: Gary Payton Boldly Blames AAU For Ruining Potential NBA Players

Jeet Pukhrambam

"Ain't Gonna Be Another Shaquille O'Neal In Our Life": Gary Payton Boldly Blames AAU For Ruining Potential NBA Players

Shaquille O’Neal‘s podcast is something of a voice for basketball. Every story becomes an anecdote of sorts and this week’s guest Gary Payton made a big and bold claim. That there will not be any other player like Shaquille O’Neal in the future. Does he mean in size? No, Payton’s claim has to do with the fact that the current AAU systems ruin young players and they don’t possess the toughness or grit that they should.

So, on the latest edition of The Big Podcast, the “fellas” are talking about everything and that’s when Spice Adams asks a question to Payton. The question is simple, why are playgrounds empty? Is it because of the advent of technology or has there been a cultural shift?

Gary answers with all guns blazing. He first agrees with Spice’s point, technology is a key factor but according to Payton is the current AAU system.

Gary Payton says there won’t be another Shaquille O’Neal, blames AAU

Well, to put it bluntly, Payton thinks the AAU system has made budding basketball players soft. From talking about how programs recruit high-school stars and put them around a coach, whose only job is to ensure that all play, to addressing the fact the program is too accessible.

Payton quotes that during his time the public and private welfare for sporting students was outright bad.  He talks about having to jump fences and using his only “good shoes” on concrete surfaces.


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GP also says that there “ain’t gonna be another Shaquille O’Neal in our life”. He seems utterly convinced by the fact that kids today lack the guile and moral character necessary to shape them into tough men.

Unlike the Glove and the Superman, both of whom grew up in tough neighborhoods, and by the time they came into the league, they were practically grown men.

How Gary Payton’s opinion is both right and wrong

While Payton’s points are fair it is important to note that the counter argument is equally strong. The AAU is not the primary catalyst for the way the league plays the game currently. The NBA itself has undergone several changes over the years and the rules during the 80s and 90s have now been replaced.

The physical nature of the game has been replaced by technicality. Players who are technically gifted are valued more. What’s more the early application of NBA rules thanks to AAUs has helped shape plenty of NBA stars today.

It is the very crucible where the next generation of players is made. And whether or not we see another Shaquille O’Neal is a story for another day. One thing is certain, we will see the next wave of NBA superstars emerge from the cradle of the AAU.

About the author

Jeet Pukhrambam

Jeet Pukhrambam


Jeet Pukhrambam is The SportsRush's Lead Editor for Basketball. After freelancing for five years as an independent writer, Jeet created thousands of blog posts and articles. He now covers intriguing news reports and throwback stories on all things NBA. His interest in NBA started with the ascendancy of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2016-17 season. Since then, Jeet has managed to coalesce his knowledge of the game and his writing to create pieces that are reflective of the current state of the league. Now, he ensures that The SportsRush produces the highest quality of writing. In his free time, he enjoys playing football, cooking, traveling, and dancing to techno. Jeet takes pride in his critical thinking, music playlists, and his love for spaghetti.

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