There can only be one true NBA “Superman”.
In the mind of future hall-of-famer and current TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal, it should be painfully obvious to everyone who that distinction belongs to.
For months and months, Shaq has publicly criticized and ridiculed former Orlando Magic and current Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard for not only stealing his nickname and emulating the path his own career took , but also for being (in his mind) one of the more overrated talents in the league today.
O’Neal recently came out in an interview and stated that both Andrew Bynum of the Philadelphia 76ers AND Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets were better big men than Howard.
“We as players, we always watch people before us. When I came in it was Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, guys who played like true centers who played inside. What we have now are centers that are going to the European style, which is a lot of pick-and-roll. Dwight Howard, who’s a pick-and-roll player, some people say he’s the best center in the league, but me being an old-school center, I’m going to go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum because they play with their back to the basket.”
(O’Neal is later asked if he meant Brook Lopez, not his twin brother, Robin)
“Brook. Same thing. They’re brothers.”
When asked about Shaq’s comments, Howard finally decided to stand up for himself and deal with the criticism head on.
Usually under circumstances such as this, I tend to side with the individual who is on the receiving end of a good portion of the harassment, who in this case would be Dwight Howard.
However, based on Howard’s recent attitude and actions over the past eight months or so, I find it hard to show any sympathy towards him.
In a way, I agree with everything O’Neal has said thus far.
I also believe that as not only one of the greatest centers of all-time, but as an analyst of the sport itself, he’s earned the right to say whatever he wants about whoever he wants in the NBA.
O’Neal is one of the most outspoken figures in league history. When he talks, people listen.
Shaq played in an era of centers and bigs that dominated in the paint with their vast arsenal of post moves, including sky hooks, duck and under’s and swerves from left to right.
Howard isn’t that kind of player. He relies mainly on his athleticism and size to dominate down low. That doesn’t mean he’s an incompetent scorer in the post, but he certainly won’t be confused with Hakeem Olajuwan or Patrick Ewing anytime soon.
Is that part of the reason O’Neal has so much ill will towards Dwight?
There are so many factors that go into Shaq’s distain for Howard.
Did Dwight steal his nickname?
O’Neal is the sporting worlds Superman. Dwight anointed himself that name, so Shaq obviously has a problem with it. A nickname is just a nickname, but for someone with as large an ego as O’Neal, it becomes that much more of a big deal.
Is their jealousy involved?
I’m not one to say. Now that Dwight is in L.A with Kobe Bryant, perhaps O’Neal is worried that this new incarnation of “Superman and Kobe” will be more successful than he was during his stint with the Lakers. Obviously it’s not going to come easy as Shaq won 3 NBA Championships with the franchise, but if any one player can waltz in, join Kobe Bryant and replicate that kind of success, its Howard.
So all in all, who is winning this battle of the Superman’s thus far?
Well, it’s Shaq of course.
Up until a few days ago, Howard hadn’t come out and defended himself against the onslaught that is Shaquille O’Neal. It’s nice to finally see Dwight grow a pair and at the very least respond to his #1 critic, but considering all that O’Neal has said up until now, it’s going to take a lot more from D12 to finally shut him up.
Again, I don’t see anything wrong with what Shaq is doing. He hasn’t crossed any lines with his comments and I doubt he ever will.
If he believes that guys like Bynum and Lopez are better centers, than that’s fine. It’s his opinion. He may be wrong in the minds of many, but that’s what makes having an opinion so great.
It sparks debate.
At the same time, all of these words are perhaps motivating Howard for this upcoming season. I’m sure Dwight would like nothing more than to be a huge star in L.A and hoist several Larry O’Brien trophies over his head.
In the end, everyone needs to relax with this whole Shaq/Howard back and forth.
It’s awesome to watch. It’s entertaining.
I don’t want it to end.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports