With all the hoopla surrounding Shaquille O’Neal on Tuesday night at Staples Center, there’s no surprise that the latest chapter of the Shaq, Dwight Howard saga came from it. With Howard suiting up for the Lakers and O’Neal getting his number retired by the Lakers, there were obviously going to be questions to each of them concerning the other.
For the most part both guys played night, but we also saw something we haven’t seen much of in the past. Shaq, who has usually been quick to barb Howard or dismiss him, offered him a bit of a challenge, and even explained the reasoning behind some of his comments in the past.
“I’m just doing to him what others did to me,” O’Neal said. “I was a young kid averaging 20 [points a game]. Someone asked Kareem what he thought of me. He said, ‘He’s an OK player, but he doesn’t have any championships.’
“It wasn’t really a diss, I just think it was Kareem’s issuance of a challenge to me to step it up a little bit. I’m not criticizing the guy, I’m just issuing a challenge.”
The quote, courtesy of Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, says a lot about Shaq’s mindset and how it has changed. While previously it may have been O’Neal looking to fight off the younger talent that had come to take his place on the court, now it seems he’s embraced his position and is looking to help the next generation succeed. While there’s certainly no way to prove either case, considering what we’ve seen from Shaq in the past, the latter might make more sense.
So while Shaq looks to motivate Howard, who had a great game Tuesday with 24 and 12, it’s up to Dwight to step up to the challenge. Whether he wanted it or not, he’s now in a position with the Lakers to follow in some pretty hefty footsteps. O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar and the others that came before them established a legacy that Howard can continue.
If he’s up to the challenge.
In case you missed it, be sure to check out Kobe in our dunk of the week!
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