Worlds Collide: Clash Of The Titans
“You gotta keep your worlds SEPARATE!” –George Costanza
In a stream of time ranging 12 years in between the horizons of two births, a fertile city in a land that was once upon a time known as New Spain, acquired two mastodonic athletes. Seen as saviors in their respective times for their common collectives, the two superhumans came to grow in form and favor to become titans of their world. Sharing similar traits, each was blessed and gifted beyond measure, but soon, as the former man moved on, gained further fame and honors and aged in his toiling, a rift soon grew. The latter man came to be known under a guise similar to his counterpart, reminding witnesses of the former glory of the elder hero’s conquests. A rift began to grow and soon what was projected to be a dual product of good fortune became acrimonious, as the worlds of these two beings began to collide…
If you’re like me and are an aficionado of the comic universe, it’s probably not lost on you that I’ve re-scripted a remix of Superman’s “Worlds Collide” story with a twist of the characteristics of Bizarro and the black suit Superman (who returned to Earth immediately after he died at the hands of Doomsday) added in. Basically, this is the Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard saga set to their own cartoonish relationship. One Superman says he was the originator, the one and only, the conqueror of the ultimate league of men…the other says he never took the identity, that it, in fact, was bestowed upon him because of his essence and style (and two-time impersonation of the elder Man of Steel), as if he were a prince. The relationship and the feud that has subsequently followed is in reality quite silly, seemingly arbitrary (especially when Shaq’s Kryptonian identity of domination seemed to be losing a war to age–something Superman normally is unaffected by), but still intriguing on some level–that level of intrigue is based in the duo’s similarities.
Shaq was drafted by the Orlando Magic, played his amateur ball in the South, was a phenom of epic proportions, was one of the true living-breathing definitions of “manchild” with his physical attributes, charmed the NBA with his unique personality, dominated the League at his position early and led the Magic to a Finals appearance in the top-half of his 20s. Dwight, whom for all intensive purposes is “Superman II,” is the same. The main differences are really in age, experience and disposition. Shaq’s been around the block a few times, he’s been more of a businessman, entertainer and corporate entity, and has been generally jovial with remnants of pretension that have flaked off his 7-1, 330/340/350/360-some-pound frame. On the contrary, Dwight is just now entering his prime, is smiley-yet-more-down-to-earth, and is seemingly less of a pitchman in that it feels he sells himself more genuinely. (And for what it’s worth, both share another set of similarities and pseudo-opposing characteristics; Shaq and Dwight both have had their first children out of wedlock, but while Shaq has pledged allegiance to Islam, Dwight is a Christian–for whatever any of that is worth.)
In short, these guys have interesting connections and play off of each other in cool ways–so why is there a blockade between the two, really? Why has Shaq chosen a cold war of sorts over collaboration? It only makes sense to me that they could work together to really not only promote the League, but to promote themselves (get that money!). As many Supermen that have existed in the DC Comics universe and as much money Shaq has been able to make, he, being a smart man, should know where opportunity lies.
Yes, Shaq has promoted the entity of the Man of Steel for the past 18 years and he’s starred in a Superman movie, while using the insignia in a number of personal ways (via his arm tattoo and cars among other things), but he’s also given birth to inspiration. At some point, any kid growing up in the 1990s (like I did) remembered the “Shaq Attaq” toy line song, the Pepsi advertisements, the Reebok Shaq Attaq shoes and pretty much any and everything that had the Orlando Magic logo–he was the s***, he was the man. I look nothing like that guy, didn’t play like him, didn’t have his personality, but even I thought he was cool and wanted to have a piece of the guy, because I loved NBA basketball, and he truly personified the talent, youth and funk of the League in his earlier years. He was the response to the championship-winning Michael Jordan…and how could Dwight not want to come to terms with the big man?–he’s said as much, voicing his desire for The Big Aristotle’s mentorship publicly. Any lover of “Seinfeld” knows George Costanza selfishly wanted to keep his own worlds apart, but in this instance, the game needs them together–we need them together.
Imagine, ABC and ESPN theme music set to pre-produced “Men of Steel Showdown” game intros; commercials with pitches on products that show who’s better or more experienced between the two–blue, yellow and red shoes!; “The Return of the Big Man!”; “Aliens conquer Earth!”; “Kryptonian domination!” OK, OK, I’m getting ahead of myself, but you know where I’m going. They’re much better together in unity than in ambiguous squabbling.
For once, Shaq can actually make try to make the best use of an opportunity to rehab his image and cast off his mean streaks after he gets hissy-fits over who’s the best Laker center, or which sidekick saved his butt the most, or rather, who’s most thoroughly tasted his @$$. Maybe the former Shaqtus could actually invest into a young superstar to give back to the game and make his legacy more relevant, in the same way Bill Russell took to him starting when he was in his early 20s, or how Wilt Chamberlain would praise him through backhanded compliments by boasting about his league records to fuel the current Cleveland Cavaliers center–but I think that’s a dream scenario.
Presently, just as Superman lived prominently and conquered, that same superhuman of a man was bound to an underwhelming aspect of himself and his glory; that same comic Superman died and returned dark, but was restored by others who actually took up the mantle because of his aura of force and power. He’s been given new life in his ubiquity, but like the humans who created and continue to write the character, it all can only last so long.
Shaq, sir–for your own benefit, it would be wise to make good with New School Supes, get that endorsement cash, enjoy the twilight years, win another ring, and usher in the return of the big man just like Mark Morrison declared the “Return Of The Mack”. It would be good for you…like chicken soup for the soul, perhaps? I don’t know…it’s worth the shot, though. Why? Because it helps you more than it hurts you.
You used to make a big deal about your acronym-turned-self-promotion company TWIsM, which conveyed your personal ideology that “The World Is Mine.” You used that later incarnation of the company name by downgrading the “s” to emphasize what “Is” is. Well, you’d be better served to upgrade that single letter and remember this one constant about your career–relative to basketball–and silent mantra I trust you still believe in: The World Is Still Mine. All you have to do is act like it always was.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.