Dwight Howard vs. Shaquille O'Neal: Which Superman Was Better in Orlando?
Orlando Magic fans currently hate their star center for his desire to ditch them for greener pastures.
Shaquille O'neal's unceremonious exit from Orlando closely mirrors what is going on with Dwight Howard now. Both have been criticized for their apparent obsession with stardom over winning, and neither was able to bring a championship to Orlando.
But which Superman had a better tenure in Orlando?
Well, luckily for you I'm here to figure that out.
This comparison may seem sort of unfair because of the basic factor of longevity.
Shaq played only four years in Orlando, while Dwight Howard just finished his eighth.
However, it's unfair to claim that reason alone kills the comparison. Shaq played in a different NBA. He reached unrestricted free agency after only four years. Who's to say Howard wouldn't have ditched them after that much time as well if he had the chance?
Chris Webber played only one year for the Warriors after being selected No. 1 by them in 1993. The league's collective bargaining agreement was just different back then.
So yes, Howard spent twice as much time in Orlando as Shaq. He may even add to that total, but don't let that be the sole deciding factor.
Statistically speaking, Shaq, even in only his early years, has a big edge over Dwight Howard.
Their rebound numbers are fairly similar; Dwight's career average of 13 per game edge Shaq's 12.4.
That's the only area where Dwight can claim he beat the original Superman.
Shaq's blocks outweigh Howard's 2.7 to 2.2, his assists beat Dwight 2.5 to 1.5, and Shaq shot a .584 field goal percentage to Dwight's .577.
That doesn't even get into the disparity in their raw scoring numbers. Shaq's scoring average in Orlando was over 27 points per game. By comparison, Howard's 18.4 points per game look downright mediocre.
And remember, Shaq did this with another superstar on his team. Imagine how little Dwight would be scoring with less shots.
If we're talking about which player was better in Orlando, it's not even a question. Shaq owns Dwight here.
Best Moment with the Magic
Howard's best moment came in 2009 when he led the Magic to an improbable trip to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. While it was great for the franchise to make it that far, it really wasn't such a great accomplishment.
Remember, it took Orlando seven games just to get past Boston in the second round. Boston was without All-Star Kevin Garnett. Considering Boston started that season a blistering 27-2 with Garnett, I think it's safe to say the Celtics would have won that series if they were healthy.
Shaq's situation in 1995 had some similarities. He led the Magic to a finals matchup with Houston, and beat an admittedly weak Bulls team in the second round.
Here's why Shaq gets the edge: he beat Michael Jordan. Name me one other player who did that after 1990. I don't care if he wasn't in perfect shape, Shaq beat Jordan. That wins him this category.
Oh, and Shaq broke a backboard. That was pretty cool too.
A famous Orlando Sentinel poll asked the following questions:
Should the Magic should fire Brian Hill if that were one of O'Neal's conditions for returning? 82 percent of fans said no.
Is Shaq worth $115 million? 91 percent of fans said no.
And you know what? I think if you compared how fans felt about Shaq then to how they feel about Howard now I don't think it would even be close. Shaq would be hailed as a hero compared to Howard.
We all know what Howard has done, so I won't bother recounting it. The bottom line is that he may be the most hated player in the entire league right now. As bothersome as Shaq's antics may have been, he never came close to that level.
Here's what I think this comes down to. Shaq is one of the 10 best players in NBA history. While his time in Orlando may have been brief, it was far more significant than any time Howard spent there.
If Dwight had decided to spend his entire career in Orlando and brought them a title or two, he obviously wins this. But both players will forever be known for how they left the Magic.
The difference is Shaq was good enough to change that legacy. I don't think Dwight Howard really is.
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