July 18th, 1996: Shaq decides to leave the team that drafted him and signs with the Lakers for 7-years, worth $120 million. The Magic fans feel betrayed as their star leaves them. Little did they know, that their star had issues with the coach and some of his teammates. Shaq leaves the Magic behind and joins a Laker team that will form a powerhouse for the next few years. The Magic on the other hand, will struggle and not become prominent until the next decade years (2006).
August 10th, 2012: Dwight Howard is traded to the Lakers, and the Magic lose their star again. 16 years later, the same result, the star unhappy with the team and the coach. In the past few years “Superman I” and “Superman II” have been compared to each other. Both the best centers of their respective times, both played for the same teams, and both betrayed their 1st home fans.
The History of Two Magic Bigs
Shaquille O’Neal, “Superman I, the Diesel, the Big Aristotle, The Big Shamrock, etc” was drafted number 1 overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992. In his first year with the Magic, he dominated the game on offense and on defense (3.5bpg). He averaged a double-double (23.4ppg and 13.9rpg). He won Rookie of the Year, went to the All-Star Game (1st rookie to do it since Jordan in 1985) and almost got the team to the playoffs. In his second season, he was second in the league in scoring behind David Robinson (arguably one of the best centers in the ’90s). They also got to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The next season, he led the league in scoring and was joined by 6’7 point guard, Penny Hardaway. The next season, 1995, he finished second in the MVP race behind David Robinson. In the 1995 NBA Playoffs, he led the team passed the Celtics, the Jordan led Bulls, and the Reggie Miller led Pacers. They went to their first NBA Finals in franchise history against the Rockets, led by Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “the glide” Drexler. In his 1st finals appearance, he averaged 28ppg, 12.5rpg, and 6.3apg. The next year in 1996, he led the Magic to second place in the Eastern Conference with a 60-22 record (1st place was the Bulls with the historical 72-10 record). They went on to the playoffs and lost in the Eastern Conference to the Bulls. The next year, 1996, Shaq went to the Lakers and started what would be great years for the Lakers. With Shaq on the team, they formed one of the NBA’s greatest duos. “Shaq and Kobe.” These two led the Lakers to 4 NBA Finals appearances and three straight NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002). With these championships, Shaq received 3 NBA Finals MVPs and one NBA [season] MVP (2000). For a while, the Lake Show starred “the Diesel and the Mamba.”
Dwight Howard, “Superman II,” was also drafted number 1 overall by the Orlando Magic. In his first year, he dominated and had an immediate impact averaging a double-double of 12ppg and 10rpg. He was also good on the defensive end, averaging 1.7bpg. He also finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Even though he had an impressive sophomore season, he didn’t lead his team to the playoffs. He would finish second in the league in rebounds. That season, Howard also took steps to becoming one of the best centers in the league by adding 20 pounds of muscle. In his third season, he played all 82 games again, and was named to the All-Star Team. He dropped a career high in points this season and led his team to the playoffs. In 2008, Dwight Howard propelled himself into stardom by winning the Slam Dunk Contest and leading his team to the third seed and made it to the second round, but lost to the veteran Detroit Pistons. The next year, his fourth year, Howard became the Defensive Player of the Year and lead his third seeded Magic to the NBA Finals. Ironically, his team faced a Lakers team that had been to the Finals the previous year. They lost in 5 games, but they achieved their first Finals win in franchise history. The next year, he won Defensive Player of the Year again and lead the Magic to the Eastern Conference, but they lost to the veteran Boston Celtics. After years of disappointment, the Magic fans and management realized that their star was unhappy. During the lockout season, Superman went to management and demanded a trade. Months later, rumors were put out that he wanted to be traded to the Nets and the Nets only. During the All-Star break, the Dwight Drama ended for a bit when he signed a 1-year extension with the Magic. The star would lead his team to a 6th seed finish, but would not play in the playoffs due to injury. On August 10th, 2012, Howard was traded to the Lakers in a four team trade. The Lake Show once again will star “the Mamba and Superman.“
Their Careers: Similar and Different
Shaq: For his career, he averaged 23.7ppg, 10.9rpg, and 3.3bpg. He was not only the dominant force of his time, he was arguably one the most dominant centers in NBA history. When Shaq needed to dominate a game, he did and it showed in his stats. In his first NBA Finals, Shaq dominated the game by averaging 28ppg, 12.5rpg, and 6.3apg, the same year he won the scoring title. In his illustrious career, Shaq never won a Defensive Player of the Year award. This was because of great defensive centers during his time, such as Olajuwon and Mutombo. Shaq has only one MVP, 4 rings, and a ROY. Shaq also has a 2 gold medals with “The Dream Team II and III.” He was a major threat in the post, with his “drop-step” and his jump hook. Throughout his career, Shaq received a lot of fouls because of the Hack-a-Shaq defense. He was a poor free throw shooter (52.7%) and did not have a jump shot. Off the court, Shaq was loved by the media and by most players. He has formed two of the greatest NBA duos in history: Shaq and Penny and Shaq and Kobe.
Dwight: For his career, so far, he is averaging 18.4ppg, 13rpg, and 2.2bpg. Howard is the best center in the league right now. He has shown some points of dominating a game in his career. Dwight has received a record, 3 straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, a slam dunk award, and 2 gold medals in international play (2007 and 2008). Howard in his first NBA Finals did not take over some games like he should have, but he at least led his team to their first NBA Finals victory in franchise history. Howard’s game is based on some post moves and his athletic ability. His jump-shot range is limited and he has a jump hook in his limited post arsenal. Throughout his young career, many teams have used the Hack-a-Howard defense, due to his poor free throw shooting (58.8%). Off the court, Dwight is a fan favorite for many reasons, just like Shaq. While playing with the Magic, he formed a duo with Jameer Nelson, the second best point guard – center duo in franchise history.
Different Animal, Same Beast: Which is better?
While both of their careers have their differences, there is no doubt that Shaq is the better center. Shaq could easily dominate a game on the offensive and the defensive end. However, with Howard, it’s harder for him to dominate a game like a Shaq or Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq could easily turn his game on or off, like most dominant players such as Jordan, Kobe, Wilt, etc. Howard does not know how to turn his game on or off yet. In games where Howard needs to dominate, he doesn’t, unlike Shaq when he needed to, he could with ease. For example, in the 2000 NBA Finals, Shaq knew he needed to dominate to get his first ring, like he did in his previous NBA Finals appearance. Howard, in his first Finals, did not know when to dominate the game and it cost him an NBA Championship. Shaq, was also a better post player and had a series of post moves. Howard only has a jump hook and a running hook in his arsenal of post moves. Howard is hands down though, a better athlete than Shaq ever was. When it comes to on the court, Shaq is better than Superman II and the Diesel might be right when he says, Howard will have some “big shoes to fill” on the Lake Show starring the Mamba and Superman.