Once upon a time, Shaquille O’Neal was the NBA’s only Superman, a nickname he gave himself because he really loves superheroes who have connections to steel. Years later, another physically dominant center joined the Orlando Magic and started calling himself Superman, making a comic book nickname story actually have a comic book feel to it. This did not sit well with Shaquille O’Neal, just like when the original Undertaker returned to fight the Underfaker.
Now that he’s retired, you’d think Shaq would cede the nickname to Dwight Howard because he’s not really using it anymore. Think again. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
What can you say about Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard. Are you friends or foes?
His mom and my mom are good friends. I don’t have a problem. But my thing is if you want to call yourself me (Superman), then you’ve got big shoes to fill. I’m not in the Superman this, and Superman that. He won a dunk contest with a cape. If you want to be called Superman because of that, it’s fine with me. I’m Superman for other reasons. I don’t envy him; he’s a great young player. But I’ve never seen him dog another center out. I tried to dog centers out. I went at David Robinson. If Dwight doesn’t win two or three championships, I’m going to be disappointed. He doesn’t have nobody. When I came in the league, I had to go through Alonzo Mourning, Arvydas Sabonis, Kevin Duckworth, Rik Smits. Now I can’t name any other centers besides Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum. Who else is there? That’s it.
What “other reasons” does Shaq have for being Superman? I am going to guess that he doesn’t have x-ray vision, the ability to fly or superbreath. Obviously he is super strong, but so is Dwight Howard, and Dwight jumps better than Shaq ever did. Perhaps he can emit solar energy from his eyes? Seems fishy.
But whatever, this is just some more classic Shaq history. Saying Dwight Howard hasn’t dogged out other centers is inaccurate, but that is fine because these are the sort of things that Shaq will always say. Expecting him to just give Dwight some love and let him enjoy his nickname is like expecting him to not be on television for the next 20 years. Even if Dwight might be a better fit for the not-that-great-anyway nickname, Shaq will always resent him for “stealing” it.
But still, he’s kind of right about Dwight winning championships. A huge, talented big guy like that should win a few titles, assuming he ends up on teams that can back him up. If he doesn’t, it’d be a disappointment on par with, I don’t know, Shaq only winning one MVP and never taking home a rebounding crown. Something like that.