(via NBC News)

If there was any ever doubt about Rudy Gobert’s importance to the Utah Jazz, the $200 million contract extension he signed before the New Year has evaporated all of it.

The deal, which was the third-largest in basketball history officially makes him the highest-paid center ever — and many aren’t sure he deserves it.

Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal, for example, recently took a significant shot at the Jazz star, joking on “All Things Covered,” that he will serve as an inspiration for many hopeful kids.

“I’m not gonna hate, but this should be an inspiration to all the little kids out there,” said O’Neal. “You average 11 points in the NBA, you can get $200 million.

The silver lining is he is a great agent, and I’m happy for him and his family. With the new rules, you have a pot of money, and you have to spend that money. I’m happy for him, but this is a moment for a lot of kids who think they can’t make it.”

Gobert is a career 11.8 point-per-game scorer who plays a more traditional style of big-man basketball. In the modern NBA, it’s certainly understandable why some would hesitate to say he’s worth a max contract.

But the 28-year-old is also one of the league’s best defenders. Besides being named an All-Star last season, he’s a 2x Defensive Player of The Year who averages 11 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for his career.

And while the Jazz have yet to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy, Gobert’s play (especially on the defensive end) is a major reason why they’ve been in contention the last few years. Their hope is that keeping Gobert around will give them the time and momentum they need to finally break through the Western Conference.

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