Shaquille O’Neal is “going to step down” from conversations regarding the relationship scandal involving Celtics coach Ime Udoka, citing his own history.
Speaking recently on his “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” the 50-year-old NBA legend touched upon the controversy that rocked the league last week and saw the Celtics suspend the Udoka for the 2022-23 season after violating the franchise’s code of conduct over an alleged romance with a female member of the team’s staff.
“I’m going to step down from this conversation,” O’Neal said, according to NESN. “I was a serial cheater. It would be crazy and blasphemous for me to get up here and say, ‘Boom, boom, bam.’ I can’t do that. I know these guys personally. I know they’re going through a lot because I went through a lot.”
Udoka, who helped lead the Celtics to an NBA Finals berth last season, is said to have engaged in an “improper and consensual relationship” with a female staffer. The 45-year-old head coach has been in a relationship with actress Nia Long since 2010 and together, have a young son.
O’Neal added on his show that he’s known Long, 51, “for a long time.”
“I just wish that certain parties weren’t involved,” O’Neal said. “I’ve known Nia Long for a long time and I like her. … They’re going through a lot of family stuff. I’m never the guy that’s gonna get up here because of my platform and fake it.”
In the wake of Udoka’s suspension, Long released a statement Friday in which she expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of love and support.”
“The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community during this difficult time means so much to me,” Long said in a statement to Entertainment Tonight. “I ask that my privacy be respected as I process the recent events. Above all, I am a mother and will continue to focus on my children.”
O’Neal himself has been candid about past missteps, notably the demise of his marriage to Shaunie O’Neal.
During an April appearance on “The Pivot Podcast,” O’Neal said he “wasn’t protecting her and protecting those vows.”
“Sometimes when you live that double life, you get caught up. I’m not going to say it was her. It was all me,” he said.
O’Neal and Shaunie wed in 2002 and separated five years later. Although they briefly reconciled, Shaunie filed for divorce in 2009 with the split being finalized in 2011.