His debut season as a TNT analyst now over, future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal could have relaxed and hit the beach, but instead has gotten back into the habit of criticizing Dwight Howard.
O’Neal has chastised the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star center plenty of times before, but their feud appeared to die down after Howard cast aside the criticism earlier this season.
The four-time NBA champion O’Neal once again publicly questioned Howard’s abilities Tuesday, while pointing out their similar traits.
“He’s too nice," O'Neal said Tuesday on ESPNLA 710 according to the Orlando Sentinel. “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.”
Howard had an inconsistent, ho-hum first season in L.A. as he battled through back and shoulder injuries, and struggled to mesh with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. He still managed to lead the league in rebounding at 12.4 boards, along with 17.1 points and 2.4 blocks a game.
Still considered the best center in the league, Howard is expected to opt for unrestricted free agency on July 1. He has been tied to rumors with the Houston Rockets, and possibly the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks. However, the Lakers can offer him the most money.
Howard has been compared to O’Neal since he entered the league in 2004 when the Orlando Magic made him the top overall selection in the NBA Draft. The Magic did the same with O’Neal in 1992, only to see him disappear to the Lakers. The 28-year-old Howard also carried Orlando to the NBA Finals, like O’Neal, and then forced a trade to Los Angeles.
Those eerie career milestones aside, both also have bigger than life senses of humor. But O’Neal separated himself from Howard with his boundless competitive nature.
“I don’t care who it is,” O’Neal said. “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.”
O’Neal also brought up how a Lakers legend pulled him aside, and made him aware of the pressure he was under after moving to Los Angeles in 1996.
“I just know when it comes to pressure, you either run away from it or you handle it,” O'Neal said. “The first day I got to the Forum (in L.A.), 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.
O’Neal picked a curious time to pick on Howard. But maybe he’s making sure the young big man understands the expectations in Tinseltown.
“He should have known all of this when he signed with L.A. He should have known what he was getting into,” O’Neal said. “My advice to him is to look pressure in the face and give it the one-two combination and knock it out.”