O'Neal began his career as a Los Angeles Laker 16 years ago after a five-year stint with the Orlando Magic. He then went on to become one of the most dominant centers in NBA history, win three straight NBA championships and three consecutive NBA Finals MVP trophies.
Now Howard has a chance to follow in O'Neal's footsteps. After an eight-season stint in the Sunshine State, Los Angeles appears to be in the cards for D12's future destination, according to Yahoo! Sports reporter Marc J. Spears.
There's just one hangup. According to Spears, Howard is reluctant to commit to Los Angeles' long-term plans because of O'Neal.
"Howard has warmed to the possibility of joining the Lakers after spending his offseason in Los Angeles, sources said, but remains apprehensive about following in the footsteps of Shaquille O'Neal, who left the Magic for Los Angeles 16 years ago."
This brings me back to my (weird) idea that I presented to you earlier. Howard's apprehension toward following in Shaq's footsteps reminds me of the son who doesn't want to follow in his dad's glorious footsteps. He doesn't want to eternally bind his legacy to the one player whose game readily compares to his own.
We've heard the story countless times. The high school athlete who follows the path of his father's esteemed scholastic career is a tough act to play out. Doing it at the NBA level, with millions of eyes watching your every move, ups the ante even further.
I'm not saying I blame Howard. If he went to Los Angeles he would, without a doubt, land himself in the same breath as Shaq from now until the end of his career. That's unavoidable, but that doesn't mean it should make Howard appealing to the Lakers.
In fact, it should scare them away.
Howard's reluctance toward following in Shaq's legendary footsteps reveals a little about his character. He doesn't want the attention accompanied with O'Neal's legacy, and he doesn't want to open the door for the whole "well, he's not Shaq" debate.
Would you want that guy? Wouldn't you prefer the player who sees the legend's legacy and is hungry to dismantle it in favor of his own storied run? I know I would, and Mitch Kupchak should too.
Shaq made eight All-Star teams as a member of the Lakers' frontcourt. Howard should want to embrace the challenge of surpassing that mark.
He should want to tell Laker fans "I'm not Shaq, but look what I can do." He should have an unquenchable thirst to play his way out of Shaq's unavoidable shadow.
Instead he can't decide how he feels about it. Howard seems scared, and scared players don't fit in with championship basketball.