Before his jersey was lifted to the rafters at Staples Center, future Hall Of Famer center Shaquille O’Neal spoke about his criticism of current Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.
On Tuesday, the Lakers retired O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey, and many have expected Howard to carry on the torch of dominant big men to wear the purple and gold, and to one day have his jersey hang next to O’Neal’s.
Before this season, O’Neal attacked Howard’s “pick-and-roll” heavy style, and lack of a post game, and before LSU honored him in 2011, O’Neal also attacked Howard’s use of the “Superman” logo.
O’Neal further explained his statements from over the years, saying he’s only been trying to motivate Howard to fulfill his potential.
"I love Dwight and I see his potential. Hopefully when I say these things he gets mad," O'Neal said to the Los Angeles Times. "Just think about it. At the dunk contest, he dunked on that thing when it was 15 feet. Remember that? OK, so why can't you back people down [in the post]? Because if you think I didn't play against great centers, he's not playing against nobody, you know what I mean?”
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Howard responded to O’Neal’s barbs before the season.
"I don't care what Shaq says," Howard said to the L.A. Times. "Shaq played the game and he is done. 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."
Over 19 seasons, O’Neal proved himself one of the most immovable and unstoppable forces the NBA has ever seen, capturing four championships, along with 15 All-Star appearances, and three Finals MVPs.
Howard, currently considered the best center in the NBA, has had his career juxtaposed O’Neal’s since it began. Both were selected No. 1 overall by the Orlando Magic, and then joined the Lakers, where championships weren’t just anticipated but expected.
O’Neal moved West in 1996 and L.A. put together a 56-26 record in his first season, and eventually lost in the second round of the playoffs. The results haven’t been nearly the same during the 27-year-old Howard’s first season with the Lakers, with L.A. clawing to reach .500 for most of the year, and currently battling the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West.
O'Neal went on to win an MVP award in the 1999-2000 season, and earn three titles with the Lakers in four trips to the NBA Finals.
Below is O’Neal’s retirement ceremony in its entirety, and Howard’s comments about the ceremony prior to it.