Is Shaq Afraid That Dwight Howard Will Be a Better Laker Than Him?
Shaquille O'Neal no longer punishes opposing centers in the paint, but he still likes to dish out abuse via sound byte, and that criticism is usually directed at new Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.
Howard has mostly taken O'Neal's barbs in stride and rather than firing back, Howard has questioned why Shaq chooses to criticize his game instead of helping him grow as a player.
Well, according to Yahoo! Sports the days of Howard responding to Shaq's unwarranted attacks with meekness are a thing of the past, pretty much like Shaq's career.
"Shaq played the game and he is done," Howard told reporters on Thursday. "It's time to move on. He hated the fact when he played that older guys were talking about him and how he played. Now he's doing the exact same thing. Just let it go. There's no sense for him to be talking trash to me. He did his thing in the league. Sit back and relax. Your time is up."
Howard's words pretty much sum up the irony of O'Neal's negative attitude, and Howard's final statement probably will not succeed in silencing O'Neal in the future, but the relevance of his words should.
But what I can't really understand is why O'Neal is so obsessed with Howard in the first place?
I know that Shaq feels like Howard stole his Superman persona, and while their career paths have taken the same course, Howard didn't ask to be drafted by Orlando, and he spent most of the offseason proclaiming Brooklyn as his preferred destination.
Shaq may have a point with the Superman thing, but imitation is the best form of flattery and Howard has had nothing but positive things to say about Shaq throughout his career, so maybe it's time to explore the true roots of his insecurity.
The only reason O'Neal would say Brooklyn's Brook Lopez and Philadelphia's Andrew Bynum are better centers than Howard is because in Shaq's mind it pushes Howard further away from him.
It seems like Shaq feels more threatened than ever by Howard and the potential that he could be a better Laker.
Howard certainly has plenty of work to do in order to match Shaq's three championships with the Lakers, but it's not an impossible goal, and it doesn't hurt that Howard has the support of three other Hall of Famers that he's not feuding with.
The bridges that Shaq burned with the Lakers will not prevent his jersey from being retired in April, but his fallout with L.A. may have prevented him from adding a few more rings to his resume.
At 26, Howard has the time to cement his own legacy with the Lakers, and if he decides to re-sign in the offseason then O'Neal's words will likely serve as motivation going forward.
Howard may not care about O'Neal's opinion of him as a player, but in a delicious twist of irony Howard has the rare opportunity to not only prove O'Neal wrong, but to do it in his old colors with Shaq looking on from TNT's broadcast booth.
Lakers fans will never forget Shaq's contributions to the franchise, but to keep it in perspective the "original Superman" was only a part of a legacy that is even bigger than him.
Can Dwight Howard be a better Laker than Shaq?
Shaq is only one on a long list of dominant NBA centers who wore the purple and gold, and it's time for him to get used to the concept that Howard is next.
Disparaging Howard's every move may make Shaq feel better about himself, but his words have no bearing on what happens on the court, and it's good that Howard finally stepped up to remind him of that.
And if Howard is able to push the Lakers to a championship in his first season then Shaq's narrative may not change, but the desperation and emptiness of his criticism will be further revealed.
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