Shaquille O’Neal has urged Dwight Howard to stay put in Orlando rather look for greener grass elsewhere in the NBA.

The former All Star, who will feature on ESPN’s coverage of the All Star Game next week, once felt the wrath of Central Florida when he bolted as a free agent to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Howard, he trusts, will choose a different path. “Hopefully, he stays,” said O’Neal. “If he leaves it will be a travesty.”

Shaq’s departure left Orlando in the doldrums for almost a decade until the arrival of Howard in the 2004 Draft.

Since then, the Team USA centre has been an All Star six times and taken the Magic to only the second Finals appearance in the club’s history.

Earlier this season, he became the team’s all-time leading scorer – maintaining his form despite the frenzied speculation over his contract status as free agency looms into view.

So far, the Magic have opted to sit tight rather than trade their key asset. It may leave them in a bind if he bolts without compensation in the off-season.

However O’Neal has refused to draw the parallels with his own messy exit 16 years ago.

“I don’t think it is similar because I had many different options,” he underlined. “I wanted to stay in Orlando. I had everyone put their options on the table and I took the best one.

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