A few weeks ago Shaquille O’Neal was at Comic Con in San Diego, an especially appropriate venue to find one man formerly known as Superman talking garbage about another man who considers himself to be the real Superman. It wasn’t so much the hero tag Shaq has issue with when it comes to Dwight Howard being traded to Los Angeles today — it’s another title entirely. Shaq believes he is the greatest Laker center, above Kareem, Wilt and George Mikan and sees Howard as a challenge to that. It’s the latest in a series of unsuccessful challenges to Howard’s Laker landing.
Goaded on by a questioner’s pointed, off-camera query, Shaq had this to say recently: “I have three sons and I always tell them that if you want to call yourself big, then you have big shoes to fill. Anybody who calls himself big has big shoes to fill. Right now, he’s off pace. He has to get himself on pace if he wants to call himself big.”
Going to a stacked Laker team that is now in the conversation as one of the West’s best two teams would seem to put him on pace of being “big.” For reference, The Big Aristotle played four years with Orlando — half as many as Howard had — before leaving for Los Angeles. Both played in a losing NBA Finals effort with the Magic. Nonetheless back in January, he called Howard’s seemingly inevitable move a “travesty”:
“It’d be good if he could put on a show and get the love and the support from the fans here and win the MVP. Hopefully, he stays, because that arena there is one of the best arenas in the country. If he leaves, it’ll be a travesty.”
Only days later and totally unironically, Shaq couldn’t let the issue sit dormant and said Howard needed to “sit down and get on with his life.”
Two months later in March, Shaq seemed to take a different approach to needling Howard, instead lauding Orlando’s star-friendly atmosphere and going the “don’t make my mistake” way with Howard. As if four NBA titles was a mistake?
“I find it quite strange that he doesn’t want to sign a long-term contract,” Shaq says. “That’s just telling me there must be a bigger issue — whether it’s with management or the coaching staff — that no one is talking about. I just don’t know why he would want to leave Orlando to go to New Jersey or anywhere else. He’s got the nicest arena in the country, the DeVos family do a great job and the organization is first-class.”
Are we likely to see Shaq’s offensive end? Probably not. Like any good former post player, Shaq will try to feel his opponent and move to the soft spot of the defense.
H/T Chicago Tribune
Should Shaq take issue with Howard’s move?
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