Dwight Howard and Shaq: Orlando to L.A. - the tale of two cities

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Football News

The Orlando Magic travel to Los Angeles tonight to take on the Lakers for what will be only the 59th meeting between the two franchises. In fact, the Lakers have met only four other NBA franchises on fewer occasions than the Magic.

Yet, despite their relative unfamiliarity and the length of America separating them, these two teams are inextricably linked by two players; Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

Two stars, two cities

Both Shaq and Howard made their names in Orlando before seeing them lit up by the bright lights of L.A. Once there, however, things didn't quite follow the same path. Here we'll look at how the careers of both these dominant centers began on the same path only to take a different route on arrival in the City of Angels.

For O'Neal and Howard, Orlando was the first landing spot in their respective NBA careers and both number one picks went on to secure their place in Magic folklore - challenging Mickey Mouse as the city's most famous resident in the process.

Magic in Orlando

Shaq, the face of the franchise a full decade before Howard entered the league, burst onto the scene in his rookie year - imposing his size to average a double-double and earning All-Star and Rookie of the Year (ROTY) accolades.

In strikingly similar fashion, Howard, a physical monster straight out of high school in 2004, also adapted well to life with the Magic. In his rookie season, he became the youngest ever player to average a double-double and finished third in ROTY voting after playing in all 82 games.

Both players became the lynchpin of their respective Orlando rosters and the franchise reaped the benefits. During the Shaq era, the Magic made the playoffs in three of his four seasons - this included their first ever postseason run as well as an NBA Finals whitewash loss against the Rockets.

Again echoing Shaq's accomplishments, Howard matched his predecessor's 75-percent playoff success rate in helping Orlando to six postseasons in eight years. This also saw one lopsided Finals defeat - this time to the Lakers in 2009.

The similarities in each star's Magic experiences also stretch to their departures from the franchise. Both players' eventual exits were clouded by talk of power struggles and frustration as the Magic failed to negotiate the final hurdle to the NBA title.

That is where the Los Angeles Lakers come in and, unfortunately for Howard, where the similarities begin to dry up.

Lakers Life

Shaq joined the Lakers in 1996 and would spent eight years at the famous franchise. The future Hall of Famer won three consecutive titles in L.A. - earning Finals MVP in each series - whilst also picking up a league MVP award and eight All-NBA First Team honours.

He was a perfect fit on the court for the Lakers and his larger than life personality was a perfect fit for the Hollywood culture. When the Magic enter Staples Center tonight, they will see Shaq's retired number 34 jersey in the rafters and, from next year, his statue outside the arena.

In stark contrast, Dwight Howard's spell with the Lakers did not bring about the same legacy. He arrived amidst the same level of media intrigue but departed for the Houston Rockets after just 11 rather turbulent months.

Injury didn't help the 6 ft 11 inch center - he constantly battled to stay fit after requiring back surgery heading into the 2012-13 - but it went beyond that.

Where he and Shaq had been kindred spirits in Orlando, Howard couldn't connect on or off the court in Los Angeles on route to posting his lowest numbers since his sophomore season with the Magic.

Moreover, Shaq was able to negotiate playing alongside fellow superstar Kobe Bryant better than the now Rockets man.

Tension between Bryant and O'Neal and Howard was reportedly high at times during both their respective spells in L.A. Only the former was able to channel that into winning games.


Still only 30 years old and now in Houston, Howard still has the chance to make inroads in matching the achievements of his fellow 'Superman'.

When the Magic and Lakers tip off on Tuesday night, however, only Shaq will be seen as a legend of both franchises.

L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Eastern Conference
Southeast Division
Kobe Bryant
Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division

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