It’s killing Shaquille O’Neal that he’s not getting the attention he once did as a star in the NBA. Speaking on his NBA show isn’t enough, so he simply takes more digs at Dwight Howard, something that he’s been quite persistent at for a very long time, hoping it keeps him relevant.
Why the obsession with Howard? Because of the similar trail, and Howard getting called the best big man in the NBA. Nothing can change the fact that Howard simply isn’t as good as Shaq was. He might be a better defensive player, but his offense doesn’t even come close to O’Neal’s, both in terms of scoring. Howard is averaging 18.3 points per game in his career so far, O’Neal stepped down averaging 23.7 per game, and averaged at least 26.2 points per game for 8 straight seasons.
I’m a connoisseur of giggling and playing and all that and making you laugh and playing with the fans, but when I cross that line, I’m ready to tear your face off. I don’t care who it is. You could put one of my aunts or uncles out there, and I’m going to give him these elbows in their chest and I’m going to throw it down in their face. That’s what you have to do. He’s just too nice. If I was him, I would get into the same mood I was in.
I just know when it comes to pressure, you either run away from it or you handle it. The first day I got to the Forum, the great Jerry West said, ‘Son, look up.’ And I saw Kareem’s jersey, Wilt’s jersey and all the great jerseys. He said, ‘Shaq, I know you do movies, I know you do albums, but you need to get at least two or three championships while you’re here or this move will be considered a bust.’ So for me, it was a lot of pressure but I like the pressure. Especially when you see other greats say that he’s like a Wilt or he’s like a Kareem. I knew I had to step up.
Shaq was in a very different situation when he entered the league, and later on reached the Lakers. The NBA isn’t about big men dominating, but about perimeter players grabbing most of the focus and the scoring. The era of 7-footers controlling the league, the way the NBA was when O’Neal arrived to try and dethrone Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and the man O’Neal admired the most, Hakeem Olajuwon, are gone, for now.
When he arrived to Los Angeles, there was no doubt who was going to be the star. O’Neal did have Kobe to compete with, but that wasn’t the initial situation, and Bryant wasn’t nearly as powerful in terms of pulling strings as he is these days at the Lakers, making it impossible for Howard to feeling comfortable.
Kareem was the best big man in Lakers history, and I wanted that title. That’s the attitude he needs to have. All the giggling and smiling is too much. The fact that he’s the so-called best big man in the league and doesn’t get doubled every time, that’s telling me something. That’s telling me teams respect him but they don’t fear him. I would rather be feared than respected.
I think it’s my duty to help this young man become one of the best big men in the league. I’m from the old school. I’m not doing it nicely. I’m pushing buttons, I’m talking about you and I’m doing it like this. I think it’s my job as a former big man to get him to play up to par.
Howard has a lot to learn and improve on from a lot of players. It might not be in Los Angeles when it’s all said and done. He wasn’t exactly feeling at home once the season started, and fingers were pointed at him for not being serious enough or not wanting to put his body on the line. What’s the truth? Howard might not be a ‘killer’ people want him to be, but he isn’t as bad as Bryant, his teammates and the media made him out to be during the season. It was simply comfortable using him as the fall-guy.
When I was in L.A., Kareem and Wilt never spoke to me. They never said two things to me. I took that as a, ‘OK, you all don’t think I’m as good as you yet. Well, watch this.’ That’s what it was — motivation. Everything I say should be taken as motivation. He’s the best big man in the league, and it’s my job to make sure he plays that way. Period. I want him to get into the ‘Forget Shaq’ mode and say, ‘Watch this.’ He doesn’t even have to reach out to me.
Images & Interview: ESPN