Shaquille O’Neal wants Dwight Howard to face the pressure head on

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal continued to push current (and possibly former) Lakers center Dwight Howard, during a talk with Max Kellerman on ESPN LA on Tuesday.

“He’s too nice,” O’Neal said. “All the giggling and smiling, it’s too much. The fact that he’s so-called the best big man in the league and he doesn’t get doubled every time -- that’s telling me something. That’s telling me that teams respect him but they don’t fear him. I’d rather be feared than respected.”


O’Neal won three titles with the Lakers. Howard has one NBA Finals appearance with the Orlando Magic. He’ll hit free agency in July when teams such as the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks are expected to aggressively pursue the all-star center.

“I think it’s my duty to help this young man become one of the best big men in the league,” O’Neal said. “I’m not doing it nicely. I’m pushing buttons.”

O’Neal has long demanded at least 28 points and 10 rebounds from Howard, whose career averages are 17 and 10.8, respectively.

“When it comes to pressure, either run away from it or you handle it,” he said. “The first day I got to the Forum, the great Jerry West said, ‘Son, look up.’

“I looked up and I saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt [Chamberlain’s] jersey -- all the great jerseys,” O’Neal said. “He told me, he said, ‘I know you do movies. I know you do albums but you need to get at least two or three championships while you’re here or this move will be considered a bust.’”

West, as the Lakers’ general manager, brought Kobe Bryant and O’Neal to Los Angeles in 1996. O’Neal finished his career with six trips to the finals and four championships.

“For me, it was a lot of pressure, but I like the pressure,” O’Neal said. “My advice to [Howard] is just look pressure in the face and give it a one-two combination and knock it out.”

O’Neal said he felt snubbed by Lakers greats Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain, but that he used that as fuel.

“I think it’s my job as a former big man to get him to play up to par,” he said. “When I was in L.A., Kareem and Wilt never spoke to me -- never said two things to me. So you know what, I took that as ‘OK, you all don’t think I’m as good as you all yet, watch this.’ And that’s what I did. It was motivation. Everything I say should be taken as motivation.”

O’Neal said he wants Howard to have the same kind of response.

“I don’t want him to reach out to me. I want him to get into the ‘forget Shaq’ mode, ‘Watch this’

With Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs leading the Miami Heat 2-1 in the NBA Finals, O’Neal said he doesn’t mind if Duncan wins a another title.

“If he gets five, congratulate him,” he said. “To say he’s the best big man? I don’t really agree with that word.”

“Greatest power forward,” said O’Neal of Duncan, carefully identifying the position. “The Big Fundamental is the world’s most under-talked-about superstar.”

O’Neal also had kind words for former teammate Brian Shaw, who is being considered for a number of open coaching positions including the Brooklyn Nets and the Clippers. And the future Hall of Famer said he isn’t quite sure why the Lakers haven’t looked to bring back Phil Jackson.

“If I had any control over things, I’d probably go with Phil too. Dwight needs a guy like Phil to stay on him,” O’Neal said.

“Phil has the track record. He won three, left, came back and won two. You think that would be the logical choice,” he continued. “Mike D’Antoni, in fairness, is a good coach. He’s the type of guy, if you give him your all, he’ll do good things. When we were in Phoenix, we had a great record, I was just a little older. We couldn’t get past the Spurs, but he’s a great coach too.”

Though O’Neal had positive things to say about the late Dr. Jerry Buss and his daughter, Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, he didn’t mention executive Jim Buss -- the man responsible for the team’s basketball decisions.

“I don’t know. Dr. Buss was a great visionary. His daughter is very excellent too,” he said. “When you’re on the outside looking in, you don’t really know what’s going on.”


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