Shaquille O'Neal knows how to put on a show and that appears to be all his feud with Dwight Howard was.
Orlando's past and present have clashed many many many times. Shaquille O'Neal has made plenty of enemies throughout his career. He called the Sacramento Kings the Sacramento Queens. He called Orlando a "dried up pond" as he left town. He fought with Kobe Bryant and allegedly got Stan Van Gundy fired from Miami.
To say Shaq has aged gracefully would be an outright lie. Everywhere O'Neal has gone, he has been the center of attention -- for both good and bad reasons. And that includes what he has done in his latter years. Cleveland is really the first city he left on halfway decent terms (although he failed to win a ring for the King).
In his time with Phoenix, O'Neal famously took shots at Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard. O'Neal was a little miffed with Howard's dubbing himself Superman (let alone getting the rights from DC Comics to use the name) and let the press know about it. You could definitely call O'Neal's comments a little bit of bitterness toward the younger generation.
O'Neal was not quite ready to pass the torch when he flopped in front of Howard, something a younger O'Neal would kill someone for doing to him.
Apparently it was always for show. O'Neal admitted to The Orlando Sentinel that he has a lot of respect for Howard and hopes he wins a championship in his career (although, not over his slowly expanding and aging body).
"I know what I have to say and what I have to do to get the game popping," Shaq said to The Orlando Sentinel. "So if people don't think I like him, then come watch the game and it will be a sold out game and my marketing techniques works like it's always been working, then I know what I'm doing.
"But in real life, he's cool, a great young player, represents the big men very well and when I'm done, I don't really see anybody in his way. Hopefully he can win a couple of championships for the city because it's a beautiful city, I've been living here 20 years and I'll be living here for the next 20 years so hopefully he'll get them there and take them over the top. Because if he doesn't get them over the top, he's going to get the blame."
It is strange to hear this rare moment of honesty from O'Neal. He has always been someone who, as he said, knows to "get the game popping" and is an ultimate entertainer. O'Neal's show "Shaq Vs." (stealing from Steve Nash notwithstanding) has been relatively successful. He even had Howard on the show to help him out with one of his challenges.
Sure, the show may be a self gratification and a way for O'Neal to prove he still matters. But it is good to see O'Neal coming to terms with his basketball mortality a bit. He really struggled in Cleveland and no longer looks like the superstar who was the most dominant force in the game. Orlando may not have completely forgiven him yet and may never do that, but O'Neal could be a valuable ally for Howard moving forward in his career (or a negative influence).
So the torch appears to be in the process of passing. It soon may be Howard's time to be "the one" in the post.