There’s no reason to get in to the storied Shaquille O’Neal-Dwight Howard feud because we all know what’s happened betwixt the two. Basically, Dwight wants to be Shaq without anyone calling him on it and Shaq wants to agree with him that Dwight could never be as good as he was and that he invented the Superman nickname/persona. Even if that sentence isn’t entirely accurate, I think it sums up the general sentiments pretty well.

Except never mind, because that’s all a fallacy. The only reason Shaq ever said anything bad about Dwight Howard is because he wants Dwight to be great because he loves Dwight. At least that’s what Shaq says. From the Los Angeles Times:

“I love Dwight and I see his potential. Hopefully when I say these things he gets mad,” O’Neal said in an interview. “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?

“So he should be able to back people down and jump-hook them to death. That’s why I envision in him as a player.” [...]

“Same thing Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] did to me, the same thing Wilt [Chamberlain] did to me,” O’Neal said. “I can remember one time reading an article and I’m averaging 37 [points] in the playoffs and we lose and somebody asks Kareem, ‘Hey, what do you think about Shaq? He’s a great player.’ And Kareem says, ‘Yeah, he’s OK, but he hasn’t won any championships.’ I didn’t respond, I didn’t cry, I just stepped up and got to the next level. So I’m always going to stay on [Howard] because I actually see him being one of the best Lakers ever if he steps up.”

First things first, Shaquille O’Neal never averaged 37 points per game during the playoffs in any season of his career. But I think we’ve all learned to accept that any stat Shaq gives about his own career is going to be made-up. Had to mention it, but it’s part of the game at this point, so whatever.

Second things second, this feels like equal parts “being nice” and “covering your tracks so that you’re on the right side of history” from Shaq. I’m sure Shaq does think a lot of what he has said about Dwight should serve as motivation, but it also feels like he’s kind of just saying this now because he wants to be able to have a small piece of whatever legacy Dwight leaves in Los Angeles. I mean, what is motivating about saying that Dwight is worse than Robin Lopez? Or even Brook Lopez? That’s just Shaq saying stuff to make people notice what he said; it doesn’t have anything to do with making Dwight Howard a better basketball player.

So yeah, I guess Shaquille O’Neal is a big Dwight Howard fan now. And I’m sure this has nothing to do with Shaq getting his number retired at the Staples Center tonight. And I’m sure Shaq won’t use this as an excuse to keep trashing Dwight Howard whenever he wants since he’s only doing it to make Dwight better. I’m sure all those things are just as true as the time he averaged 37 a game in the playoffs.