If you happen to be someone who read my latest book, “Three-Ring Circus,” you know Shaquille O’Neal is one of the all-time great teammates in NBA history. He was giving, he was compassionate, he was decent and warm and loving. I’d argue—strongly—he was better to fringe contributors than any superstar in modern sports.
Which is why the above interview is so depressing.
In the immediate aftermath of the Lakers’ latest NBA title, a video went viral of Dwight Howard—backup center—expressing profound emotion after winning his first championship. It was a legitimately beautiful site: A faded-yet-still-productive former star genuinely overcome with love and bliss upon fulfilling a dream. Is the 2020 Dwight Howard the 2005 Dwight Howard? No. Not even close. But does that take away from the achievement? Should it reduce his feelings? No.
And here’s what bothers me most: If Shaq believes Dwight Howard is unworthy of such feelings of accomplishment, where does that leave Mark Madsen and Devean George? Where does it leave Ty Lue and Slava Medvedenko and Ron Harper and Lindsey Hunter and Jelani McCoy and Samaki Walker and Mitch Richmond? All those men won titles alongside Shaq and Kobe Bryant. But, because they weren’t essential contributors, should they view their rings as tarnished? As lesser?
It’s an arrogant way to think, and it makes Shaq seem small and petty.
Which he is not.