The frequently candid O'Neal didn't hold back in scolding the seven-time All-Star at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, implying that the 27-year-old Howard couldn't handle the expectations and the pressure that comes with playing in L.A. (h/t ESPN via AP):
It was expected. We've all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That's right, little town. I said it.
The belittling of the city of Houston by O'Neal is sure to cause Rockets fans to stir, but there is a certain substance to his comments—even if the delivery is a bit blunt.
Something about the combination of star power in Los Angeles and the Lakers' incredible tradition of excellence is something the Rockets simply can't match. Having said that, no other franchise in the league can boast quite the atmosphere and history that the Lakers can.
Howard announced his decision to bolt for Houston on Twitter Friday, where he's set to join a young but talented Rockets squad with stud shooting guard James Harden and emerging star Chandler Parsons.
It's hard to say whether Howard made a bad decision, because he has a loaded supporting cast that should be built for title contention immediately and for the foreseeable future.
However, the Lakers are one the most storied organizations in all of sports, and are only second to the Boston Celtics in NBA championships.
Bryant had a point when he made his pitch to Howard, and O'Neal—as a three-time NBA Finals MVP in Los Angeles—appears upset that Howard opted not to stay and help drive the Lakers back to the pinnacle of professional basketball.
O'Neal and Howard were both first overall picks in their respective draft classes and began their careers with the Orlando Magic, but this move by Howard should lessen comparisons to the Diesel—at least somewhat.