Retired NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal and 8x All-Star Dwight Howard have quite a bit in common. Both O’Neal and Howard were traditional low-post big men who were drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992 and 2004 respectively.
Both also played for the Lakers during their careers. So naturally, it would have made sense for O’Neal to serve as a mentor for Howard. However, O’Neal constantly mocked and bullied Howard throughout his 18-year career. Here’s why:
The beef between the two started over the nickname “Superman.” O’Neal first earned the Superman nickname during his rookie season in Orlando. The nickname had to do with O’Neal’s superhuman strength and how dominant he was in the paint.
O’Neal also mentioned that he is a big fan of the superhero “Superman”, and even has the Superman logo tattooed on his arm.
Many years later, when Howard started calling himself Superman, O’Neal clearly did not approve of this. Howard first took the nickname during the 2008 NBA All-Star weekend when he competed in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. For Howard’s final dunk in the contest, he dressed up as Superman for a soaring dunk to win the contest.
Howard later mentioned that he didn’t mean to offend O’Neal. He said:
“I hope Shaq is not mad at me. Nobody will ever be able to replace Shaq,” Howard said.”
However, O’Neal still responded quite bitterly:
“Superman is still mine. Howard has to do something first to be called Superman. Anyone can win a slam dunk contest. The real Superman is dead. He was assassinated by Pat Riley in Miami.”
For additional context, O’Neal was on the downside of his career at this point in 2008. He failed to miss the All-Star game after being traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns.
Howard also took his place as an Eastern Conference All-Star starter. So it’s likely O’Neal felt threatened by the up-and-coming Howard. Either way, O’Neal used the lighthearted All-Star Weekend moment as fuel to hate on Howard for the rest of his career.
Notable moments in the Shaquille O’Neal-Dwight Howard feud.
O’Neal also refused to acknowledge Howard as a Hall of Famer during his time with the LA Lakers last season. O’Neal reasoned with fellow NBA players on TNT that the team only had three or four Hall of Famers, not including Howard.
In 2019, when Kobe Bryant tweeted about his alleged beef with Shaquille O’Neal being over, O’Neal still found a way to take a dig at Howard:
When Dwight Howard finally won his first NBA title with the Lakers in 2020, O’Neal accused Howard of being a frontrunner:
It’s crazy to think that all this started over a simple nickname. At this point, it doesn’t look like the feud between Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard will end anytime soon.