"Cowards flop. If you're a good defensive player, you shouldn't have to flop. (Defenders) know they can't stop me straight up, so they act like cowards and flop."
Shaquille O'Neal had these harsh comments for floppers on May 19, 2008.
Less than one year later, he may be eating his words.
Howard picked up several fouls away from the ball early on and was in foul trouble for most of the night. Normally, this means that Shaq would attack his opponent, whose defensive ability would be limited for fear of picking up their sixth and final foul.
But not tonight.
When Howard received the ball in the post late in the game, O'Neal found himself flopping to the floor. Longtime Orlando Magic announcer David Steele was stunned. "Shaq flopped? Shaq just flopped," he screamed in surprise. Did the man who always talks about flopping being cracked down on and offenders being penalized really just throw himself to the ground looking for a call?
Minutes later, Shaq was at it again. Howard catches the ball, puts in on the floor and the second he made contact, The Big Hypocrite was sent spiralling to the floor. Twice down the stretch, O'Neal became the coward who couldn't stop Howard, flopping to the floor with worse acting than he displayed in the movie Kazaam.
"I was shocked, seriously, shocked. And very disappointed cause he knows what it's like," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy who coached O'Neal in Miami. "Let's stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.
So why the change of heart for O'Neal? Could it be that he's finally met his match in Howard? For once, Shaquille was the hopeless big man on an island against the league's most dominant center and he resorted to the same cheap strategy that "cowards" have been using against him for years.
Prior the game on Tuesday night, Shaq would tell reporters that "everyone knows who the real Superman is." Indeed we do—and you had no answer for him in the second half.
If he hadn't trashed the art of flopping, (once saying "Bill Russell and Bill Walton would be ashamed to watch this game, big men flopping around."), called out players for these antics (see Danny Fortson, Vlade Divac, and Jason Collins), and been so negative towards the flop in the past, this wouldn't be such a big deal.
But because of his anti-flopping resume, we can now label him as a true hypocrite who looked just as weak and cowardly as the "flopternity", as he calls of it, of players that he has called out over the years.
Shaquille, when you flopped to the Amway Arena floor Tuesday night, you hit a new low.