As a lifelong Lakers fan, I cringed while watching Dwight Howard give a live interview to Stu Lantz and Bill Macdonald during the Lakers first preseason game against the Golden State Warriors.
Howard had his humorous moments, especially when he dropped the "Kobe voice" although the telecast wasn't ready to go live — after Stu called him on it, the telecast cut to commercial. Howard also gave some bland, standard answers about being excited, playing hard, etc.
So what was it that made me cringe?
Well, Howard, in an attempt to distance himself from Shaquille O'Neal, anointed himself "Iron Man."
Why "Iron Man"?
Well, if you don't know, Howard and O'Neal have squabbled over the "Superman" moniker for the past couple of years. Following his "Superman dunk" in the 2008 Dunk Contest, Howard usurped the moniker that O'Neal held throughout his career. Never mind the fact that Howard only wore that red cape because Soulja Boy was famous at the time for creating a dance craze that included the line "Superman that oh" (a homophone meant to be hoe that not so subtly contained a sexual innuendo). Remember Soulja Boy? He was famous for about fifteen minutes my freshman year of college.
From there, Howard seemed to embrace the Superman moniker. Howard even did a "This is SportsCenter" commercial where he posed as Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego. With Howard ripping off O'Neal's most prized nickname, a public beef ensued. In fact, after 21 years of NBA ball, O'Neal handed out T-shirts that read "The Real Superman" at his retirement press conference.
With the "Superman beef," serving as a catalyst, O'Neal and Howard have spatted publicly for the past couple of years. During his time as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, O'Neal's teammate, LeBron James, shed some light on the beef, stating, "The whole Superman thing kind of bothers him. That's definitely his nickname, and the fact that everybody kind of gave Dwight his name kind of bothers him a little bit."
Since retiring, O'Neal has continued taking public shots at Howard, going so far as to say that Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez are better "big men" than Howard. O'Neal caught a lot of flack for that statement, but if you read his full thought process, he may have a point — O'Neal defines a big man as someone who can play with his back to the basket rather than relying on athleticism and the pick and roll. Certainly, Lopez is a question mark, but I have a feeling that quote won't look like such a "hater" quote in about two years — in my opinion, Bynum is the most developed offensive low-post player, and Lopez has some real potential as a low-post threat.
To push the O'Neal-Howard correlation even further, it seems like their career arcs are on a similar path. Each made a trip to the NBA Finals early in his career and was defeated handily. Each held Orlando hostage and eventually decided to move on to Los Angeles in his prime. And it seems like Howard wants to get into the movie business in a similar fashion to O'Neal. Hopefully Howard can push the correlation even further by winning his first ring this season at the age of 27, the same age that O'Neal won his first championship in the '99-00 season.
Overall, Howard's intentions are fine and dandy, but Howard lacks the originality of the "The Big Aristotle" (a personal favorite of mine), and in an attempt to distance himself from O'Neal, Howard unwittingly ripped off another Lakers great.
Green played for the Lakers for nine seasons, with eight straight to start his career, and one later as a member of the '99-00 championship squad.
You may think that Green is nowhere near Howard's level, but the man definitely earned his moniker of "Iron Man." Green played in 1278 out of 1281 possible NBA games throughout his 18 year career. Green's only missed games came in his second season, '86-87. Following those missed games, Green played in 1,192 straight games — now that's an "Iron Man."
Green is also known as the most famous celibate athlete ever — he claims to have finished his pro career as a virgin. It has to take an iron will to resist the temptation of women as a pro athlete.
With three rings as a member of the Lakers, Green holds a firm place in the hearts of many Lakers' faithful.
If anyone deserves the "Iron Man" moniker, it's A.C. Green. Howard needs to brush up on his Lakers history and search for another nickname.
Howard may be a freak of nature, but he's coming off of a back surgery that took him out last season and will likely force him to miss time this upcoming season. An "Iron Man" doesn't miss games, yet it seems like Howard will do so to begin his Lakers' career.
It's almost embarrassing that Howard went from ripping off one Lakers legend to another. Howard may be enamored with superheroes, but I think that it's time he came up with something original.
After pondering for about two minutes, I actually have a suggestion.
How about Howard parlays his D12 moniker (his initial and number) into "Purple Hills"?
"Purple Hills" is a reference to the clean version of the excellent rap song by the group D12. The moniker would contain a Lakers color along with a reference to climbing up to the top (a championship). In fact, the song lyrics even mention "yellow purple hills" and there's even a Christopher Reeves (the actor who played Superman) rhyme.
It's not the greatest, but it's interesting, and Howard is so big, he may look like a "Purple Hill" in that road uniform.
Howard certainly has some "Purple Hills" to climb in order to ascend to the level of some all-time Lakers greats, why not take the challenge head on and embrace it?
Dwight "Purple Hills" Howard. It kind of has a ring to it.
If Howard wants to join Mikan, Chamberlain, Jabbar, and O'Neal, he's got some huge "Purple Hills" to climb. Hopefully they aren't so difficult that they become mountains.
If you think my suggestion is lame, send me a suggestion, or better yet, tweet Howard.
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