“I think it was Kareem’s challenge to me to step it up,” O’Neal added. “I’m not criticizing (Howard). I’m just issuing a challenge. I think I have the right to say, `You have to average 28-10 in order to get a championship.’ I just see a kid with a lot of talent.”
When asked if he empathized with Howard’s struggles to get healthy after offseason back surgery, O'Neal said: “My father was a military drill sergeant, and his motto was, `If you can walk, you can play.’ I wish there was a time I was injury-free when I played. I empathize with his pain, but no pain, no gain. He has the potential to be one of the greatest big men ever, but he has to want it.”
O'Neal’s celebration included profuse thanks to the Buss family, several former coaches and Lakers employees. He name-checked nearly everybody who worked for the Lakers during his eight-year tenure, even extending a detailed thanks to former assistant coach Bill Bertka.
“The only regrets I have are missing 200 games and missing 5,000 free throws,” O'Neal said. “Other than that, I had fun, did it my way. Made a lot of friends, made a lot of enemies. It was all fun.”