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Shaq started beefing with Dwight Howard over who deserved the title of Superman...and never stopped

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16:08   |   Jan 29, 2019

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Shaq started beefing with Dwight Howard over who deserved the title of Superman...and never stopped
Shaq started beefing with Dwight Howard over who deserved the title of Superman...and never stopped thumb Shaq started beefing with Dwight Howard over who deserved the title of Superman...and never stopped thumb Shaq started beefing with Dwight Howard over who deserved the title of Superman...and never stopped thumb

Transcription

  • - Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard have a ton in common.
  • Like a truly eerie amount.
  • Same draft situation.
  • Same mentor.
  • Same career decisions.
  • Feuds.
  • Free throw problems.
  • And crucially the same cultural references.
  • Those similarities drew a lot of mockery from Shaq
  • and as Dwight's career has underperformed
  • its initial promise, that distinction has drawn a lot
  • of mockery from Shaq, too.
  • Let's start in the summer of 2004.
  • The Orlando Magic, after years of playoff disappointment,
  • finally crumbled for real.
  • The past season had been a train wreck.
  • They fully lost veteran star, Grant Hill,
  • to scary medical problems.
  • Fired Coach Doc Rivers after a horrible start,
  • and won just 21 games while young superstar, Tracy McGrady,
  • became more and more disgruntled.
  • The silver lining to that dreadful year
  • was winning the draft lottery.
  • With the first pick, Orlando took a risk
  • selecting high school big man, Dwight Howard
  • over more established NCAA champion center, Emeka Okafor.
  • But what next?
  • Despite Howard begging him to stay, T-Mac wanted out.
  • The Magic had to make a trade,
  • and there was one obvious potential partner, the L.A. Lakers
  • who were dealing with a similar issue.
  • Shaquille O'Neal had demanded a trade
  • after eight wild but successful years
  • in L.A. concluded with a lot of drama.
  • Shaq, of course, was drafted by Orlando in 1992.
  • Became an all star rookie there.
  • Developed into a true superstar under Coach Brian Hill
  • and even reached a finals before bolting to L.A. in '96.
  • An Orlando return was enticing to both parties
  • and an idea of a Dwight Shaq tandem was fascinating,
  • but the trade match just wasn't right,
  • especially since Shaq was most attracted
  • to the idea of playing with McGrady.
  • In the end, McGrady got dealt to the Rockets
  • for a huge package centered around Steve Francis.
  • A couple weeks later, Shaq landed 200 miles away in Miami.
  • Over in Orlando, Dwight's first couple seasons
  • didn't go quite like Shaq's had.
  • For one thing, the Magic didn't immediately treat him
  • as a centerpiece or even as a center.
  • The 6'10ish Howard played power forward
  • alongside the likes of Tony Battie and Kelvin Cato.
  • He struggled to get touches among scorers like Francis
  • and Hill and Hedo Turkoglu.
  • That was the big story around Dwight's first ever game
  • against O'Neal and the Heat.
  • Shaq dominated then offered some advice to a young Dwight,
  • who was sad he wasn't getting the ball, but Brian Hill,
  • the same guy who had coached Shaq in Orlando,
  • took over Howard's sophomore year
  • and gradually realized Dwight should play center.
  • He was a little short for the position
  • but rapidly adding strength.
  • By the time the Heat and Magic met
  • for back to back games in '06,
  • Dwight matched up with Shaq quite a bit with mixed results.
  • The Heat dominated those games
  • and ended that year winning Shaq his fourth ring,
  • but Howard was beginning to break out and by the next season
  • the Magic knew they had another star center on their hands.
  • With Francis gone now and more chances to score,
  • Dwight played his way to his first all star selection in '07
  • although not the starting center spot.
  • That went to Shaq, even though he barely played that year
  • because of injury.
  • The two of them had a fun little dance off
  • on the practice floor in Vegas.
  • Then Dwight played wonderfully in the main event.
  • No beef detected.
  • Not yet.
  • If '06-'07 wasn't Dwight's breakout season,
  • then the next one definitely was.
  • Orlando hired Shaq's old coach from Miami, Stan Van Gundy,
  • and gave Rashard Lewis a huge contract
  • to serve as Dwight's costar.
  • Dwight improved, the Magic improved,
  • and battles against Shaq's Heat
  • started to tip the other way.
  • Shaq was slowing down big time at this point,
  • increasingly prone to injuries, foul trouble,
  • and clashes with Coach Pat Riley.
  • It got bad enough that in February of 2008,
  • Miami pulled the plug and traded Shaq to the Suns.
  • Dwight, like everyone else, was stunned,
  • but he pointed out that Shaq was Superman
  • and Superman would make it work in Phoenix,
  • and Dwight didn't choose that honorific at random.
  • Of all of Shaq's self-cultivated nicknames,
  • Superman might be his favorite.
  • He has a Superman tattoo.
  • He surrounds himself with Superman stuff.
  • The dude even starred in a movie
  • based on one DC Comics' Superman offshoot characters.
  • Dwight clearly was well aware of this nickname,
  • which made all star weekend later that month interesting.
  • It was a big weekend for Dwight.
  • He'd been voted into the eastern conference
  • starting center spot vacated when Shaq got traded west.
  • In fact, for the first time in his career,
  • Shaq wasn't an all star at all,
  • and Dwight kind of took over as the headliner of the weekend,
  • though he missed Shaq's presence there.
  • Howard also participated in the dunk contest
  • and as part of the presentation
  • teased the possibility of a Superman costume
  • and separately considered a Shaq tribute.
  • Dwight went the Superman route,
  • donning a cape and a big ole S
  • for the soaring dunk that won the contest,
  • but it wasn't really regarded as a tribute to Shaq.
  • Dwight was introduced as Superman
  • at the main event the next night
  • and sort of apologized to the absent Shaq
  • for you know infringing on his persona.
  • Shaq was not into it, scoffing at Dwight claiming the title
  • without having won anything greater than a dunk contest.
  • Let's just pause quickly to acknowledge
  • that grown men quarreling over who gets to cosplay
  • at a comic book career is extremely dumb
  • and this is gonna get dumber.
  • But Shaq's actual point was interesting
  • and echoes throughout a lot of what's to come.
  • Shaq is very keen on the mythology of the big man.
  • The true centers.
  • He grew up idolizing Kareem and when he got to the league,
  • he felt like he had to earn the respect
  • of greats like Hakeem and Patrick.
  • Those centers of the 90s put the young upstart O'Neal
  • through a lot before he emerged as an elite big man.
  • He went through epic playoff battles
  • and even had some beef along the way.
  • Shaq earned his legendary status
  • because he put up unbelievable numbers
  • against legendary bigs for teams that won it all.
  • It's not like Shaq was quiet
  • and humble before he proved himself as a winner,
  • but especially with the benefit of hindsight,
  • Shaq feels that the more superficial embellishments
  • of super stardom have to be earned.
  • So yeah.
  • Dwight winning a dunk contest and leading Orlando
  • to one playoff series win later in '08
  • wasn't enough for O'Neal.
  • The big guy practically spat at the suggestion
  • that Dwight might be the next Shaq
  • or even that such a thing was possible.
  • Healthy and productive again in Phoenix,
  • Shaq returned to the 2009 all star game
  • and went out of his way to embarrass Dwight,
  • who just laughed along with it
  • after having leaned even heavier on the Superman stuff
  • in the dunk contest the night before.
  • When they finally met again in a real game,
  • Shaq showed up wearing a Superman tee shirt
  • and called out young Dwight's lack of championships.
  • In an earlier Sports Illustrated interview,
  • he belittled Dwight as a big guy just like any other.
  • A guy who could run and jump but didn't have championships.
  • A copycat whose early career was just a cheap replica
  • of all the things O'Neal did when he was in Orlando.
  • Dwight sounded genuinely hurt.
  • He wanted guidance from Shaq not disparagement.
  • Anyway, the younger of the two Superman
  • held his own that night and Orlando got the win.
  • Shaq performed admirably for a guy about to turn 37,
  • but the highlight of his evening
  • was this very un-Shaq like flop.
  • That flop ignited a mini beef between Shaq
  • and his old coach, Van Gundy.
  • Howard mostly tried to stay out of it,
  • but did seem to get a kick out
  • of saying he respected his elders.
  • The Magic finished the '09 season with 59 wins.
  • Dwight would take home defensive player of the year
  • and as the playoffs approached,
  • Sports Illustrated dropped a big cover story on Howard
  • that opened with an anecdote
  • about Shaq calling him an imposter.
  • That article went on to distinguish Howard as sillier
  • and smilier than the stereotypical,
  • badass big man Shaq epitomizes,
  • but it did point out that the Superman stuff
  • wasn't the only way Howard seemed to mimic Shaq.
  • He also for instance was prone
  • to celebrating tough finishes by staring at his hand.
  • Dwight also literally impersonated Shaq, so there's that.
  • - Hello, it's Shaquille O'Neal.
  • I can't shoot free throws but I can dunk the ball.
  • - [Narrator] But silly or not, copycat or not,
  • Dwight was threatening to invalidate
  • Shaq's main talking point.
  • He was winning.
  • Howard's Magic cruised through the first two rounds
  • of the playoffs then upset Lebron James and the Cavs
  • to face Shaq's old pals for the championship.
  • O'Neal handled the occasion like any adult would
  • by (beep) posting on Twitter the night
  • of game one of the finals.
  • A Woj column a few days later went in on Shaq.
  • It had Kareem himself questioning the maturity
  • of a 37 year old,
  • Howard once again expressing his dismay
  • in the middle of the finals,
  • and anonymous sources proclaiming
  • Shaq wanted the Magic to get swept in the finals
  • just like his own '95 Magic got swept
  • just so Dwight couldn't claim anything over him.
  • Orlando did get one win in an other wise
  • lopsided finals defeat so take that Shaq I guess.
  • The following season Shaq joined Lebron in Cleveland
  • and fully embraced the role of anti Dwight villain.
  • His vendetta had only been inflamed
  • by Dwight going commercial with the Superman persona.
  • - You're really lucky Superman was so close by.
  • - In the few minutes Shaq played
  • during the first Cleveland Orlando match up,
  • he insisted on guarding Dwight one on one,
  • courting the boos of an Orlando crowd
  • that once loved him and actually helping push Dwight
  • into foul trouble as the Cavs got the win.
  • O'Neal played Howard well again later that season,
  • getting physical at every opportunity,
  • then taunting him after the game
  • about who the real Superman was,
  • which once again hurt Dwight's feelings
  • and invited some thoughtful critique from Lebron.
  • Shaq's main quibble had shifted.
  • He was up in arms that Dwight wouldn't always
  • guard him one on one,
  • that the Magic sent double teams at him,
  • whereas he'd spent his youth guarding guys
  • like Hakeem and Ewing straight up.
  • Lebron once again was like eh he's just grumpy
  • about the Superman stuff which...yeah.
  • Later in February, we were treated to an exciting duel
  • in which Shaq and Dwight went directly at each other,
  • each having some big moments in
  • what ended up being a Magic win.
  • The Celtics broke up a potential Cavs Magic playoff rematch
  • on their way to the 2010 finals.
  • So Shaq, desperate for one last ring,
  • spent his next and final season in Boston.
  • He was too old and beat up at this point
  • to hang with younger players.
  • Dwight toppled him in their first match up,
  • and in their final match up dropped 33 points
  • on a flurry of dunks, post moves, and face up buckets.
  • Shaq said farewell at the end of that season
  • using his retirement press conference
  • to hammer home the Superman and ring stuff,
  • but he also said the beef was all marketing,
  • and gave Howard some credit as a great big man,
  • and then Shaq faded into the sunset,
  • enjoying his post playing career quietly
  • and out of the public eye.
  • Oh, no sorry.
  • I'm actually getting word that Shaq
  • immediately took a job with TNT
  • and spent the rest of the decade criticizing Dwight.
  • In 2012, when Dwight was at his all star peak,
  • Shaq was calling L.A.'s Andrew Bynum the superior player.
  • - Andrew Bynum is a true big man.
  • Back you down, jump hook.
  • Dwight Howard has one or two moves on the block.
  • - [Narrator] Dwight was just tired of Shaq at this point.
  • Disappointed that a dude done playing was still talking.
  • - You know I would suggest he just sit down
  • and get on with his life.
  • He don't play no more so what's the point of talking trash.
  • - [Narrator] Dwight hasn't stopped doing impressions though.
  • - Everyday is a blessing in itself.
  • That's Shaq.
  • That's Shaq.
  • - [Narrator] That regular season ended
  • with the super awkward falling out
  • between Howard and Van Gundy
  • that would end with the coach getting fired.
  • - You know when it comes out that you know,
  • one of the highest profile guys in the league
  • has asked for his coach to be fired
  • I mean it's gonna be a story.
  • - Yeah, what's our main concern right now?
  • - [Narrator] Another eerie parallel between Dwight and Shaq.
  • Even with Van Gundy gone Dwight made another
  • Shaq like move demanding a trade
  • and eventually joining Kobe and the Lakers,
  • while the Magic figured out a way to move on without him.
  • Shaq said Dwight had big shoes to fill
  • and found yet another big man critique to harp on,
  • that Dwight was a pick and roll player,
  • not a true old school center like say a Lopez twin.
  • - Dwight Howard, who's a pick and roll player,
  • you know some people say he's the best,
  • but me being an old school big man,
  • I'ma go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum.
  • - [Narrator] And if he wasn't talking
  • about Dwight he was rapping.
  • - Like I said before, you will get devoured,
  • but don't you ever call me Dwight Howard.
  • - [Narrator] Dwight was still very sick of all of this.
  • - Just sit back and relax.
  • You know you did your, your time is up.
  • - [Narrator] But something interesting
  • and unexpected was happening.
  • Dwight clashed with Kobe and not in the "we hate each other
  • but we're still winning" way that Shaq did.
  • Howard's performance flagged.
  • The Lakers never really came together under Mike D'Antoni
  • and they flamed out early in the playoffs.
  • That whole season Shaq insisted his haranguing
  • of Dwight was meant to motivate,
  • to inspire him with anger the same way
  • Shaq's elders had gotten him going.
  • - I was taught to play with ferocity.
  • I need to be upset, you know.
  • Something has to be said in an article
  • on TV about me for me to respond.
  • - [Narrator] But Dwight I think correctly identified
  • that his personality wasn't like Shaq's nor was his style
  • nor was the environment in which he played.
  • He wanted heartfelt advice
  • from Shaq not motivational prodding,
  • but he received nothing of the sort,
  • not even when Shaq came to L.A. for his jersey retirement.
  • Shaq rejected the idea of connecting with Dwight
  • and continued sniping from afar.
  • That continued as Howard's career slumped further.
  • Dwight moved onto the Rockets.
  • Shaq criticized him for it still insisting he was trying
  • to motivate the big guy not pick on him,
  • but I don't know this just feels like picking on him.
  • In early 2016, a struggling Dwight hired Shaq's agent,
  • which led to rumors the big guys would work together
  • on rehabilitating Howard's reputation,
  • but when Dwight visited the TNT studio
  • for a pretty intimate, vulnerable interview,
  • Shaq was elsewhere, [beep] posting on Twitter.
  • The beef has only gotten dumber in the years since
  • during which Howard has bounced from team to team,
  • alternating injuries with okayish performance.
  • Dwight is still impersonating Shaq like really a lot.
  • - Well you gotta get his name right, Charles.
  • - [Narrator] Shaq is still rapping about Dwight.
  • ♪ Rags man who calls himself Superman ♪
  • ♪ Still ain't got no rings ♪
  • - [Narrator] And when Dwight got roasted
  • on an episode of Wild 'N Out, Shaq jumped all over it,
  • igniting a very stupid back and forth.
  • When Dwight started the '18-'19 season
  • with an injured butt, Shaq absolutely loved it,
  • and just to add insult to a lot of injury,
  • he went on to declare Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • the NBA's new Superman.
  • - I'm denouncing my Superman-ship
  • and I'm giving it to Greek Freak.
  • - And that's basically where the beef sits
  • after well over a decade of shifting goal posts.
  • Dwight Howard first drew Shaq's ire
  • by imitating some of what made Shaq Shaq.
  • The fact that Dwight's entrance into the spotlight
  • coincided with Shaq's demise,
  • only made the big man more prone to lashing out,
  • shifting his target with every move Dwight made.
  • Of course the truth is that despite early appearances,
  • some of them intentional, Dwight isn't that much like Shaq.
  • Among other things, he has failed to follow through
  • on the early promise of his career,
  • but Shaq hasn't backed off at all.
  • This is a beef of ego.
  • The elder found the younger one disrespectful.
  • The younger player found the older one cruel.
  • Neither is particularly graceful in making his point,
  • so we've ended up with a very long,
  • very public, very stupid beef.

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Description

There are lots of similarities between the personal arcs of Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. There are also lots and lots of differences, from their team accomplishments to their styles of play to their personalities. Weirdly, both the ways in which Dwight and Shaq are the same and the ways in which they aren't have helped fuel a very weird, very long, very dumb beef.

Written and produced by Seth Rosenthal
Directed by Alex Hawley
Edited by Jiazhen Zhang

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