Dwight Howard filled in for longtime Dwight Howard hater Shaquille O’Neal on Inside the NBA last night. Fellow Howard hater Charles Barkley decided this was as good a time as any to ask him why fans dislike Dwight. I am trying to imagine how any retired player asking Barkley this—12 seasons into a Hall of Fame career, no less—would have ended in anything but a brawl, and can’t seem to do it. It’s worth remembering that, 13 years into Barkley’s own career, Barkley threw a 5-foot-nothing guy through a plate glass window at 2 a.m. Perhaps Howard should have brought this up.

Instead, Howard earnestly tried to answer the question. Yes, Howard attempted to explain why people don’t like him, instead of brandishing a printout of his Basketball Reference page in Barkley’s face and politely inviting him to shut the fuck up.

Here is why people dislike Howard: He’s corny. That’s pretty much it. Well, that and national media folk like Barkley and Shaq taking shots at him all the time. Howard hasn’t been able to lead a team to a title? Funny, neither has Kevin Durant, and people don’t hate him. Howard doesn’t take everything seriously? Funny, neither does Blake Griffin and people don’t hate him. Howard hasn’t won MVP? Funny, neither has Chris Paul and people don’t hate him. (Much.)

The next time [barkley] wants to berate an immature Hall of Famer who never won anything, there’s no need to find Howard. He should just look in a mirror.

Over his first six seasons, Howard missed a total of three games. By his fourth season, at 22, he was the best center in the NBA. By his fifth he had the Magic in the NBA Finals. Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year titles, Barkley may have played defense three possessions in a row once. Howard led the NBA in rebounds five times, something O’Neal never did once. Howard’s decline of late has been due more to injury (he had back surgery in 2012) and being a post player in the modern NBA than anything on his part. His shot attempts have decreased while playing with Kobe Bryant and then James Harden? Wow, shocking, never would have guessed.

Dislike of Howard, whose Hall of Fame chances stand around 99 percent as per Basketball Reference, says more about you than it does about him at this point. Expecting him to explain why other people don’t like him makes about as much sense as asking why President Obama hasn’t ended racism yet. Does, as Howard tried to explain last night, his awkward exit from Orlando play into it? Sure. His preternatural farting ability, too.

If I could offer one piece of advice to Howard, it would be this: Fight back. When an out-of-touch buffoon like Barkley asks you to explain why people don’t like you, turn it around. Ask HIM to explain why HE doesn’t like you. When Shaq ridicules you or lays claim to the Superman nickname, ask to see his rebounding titles, or his Defensive Player of the Year awards, or the box score from a NBA Finals win while in Orlando. Better yet, ask Hakeem Olajuwon to induct you into the Hall of Fame.

When Shaq played for the Lakers, every player had their last name on a plaque on their locker. Every player but O’Neal, that is, whose own plaque read IDGAF. Howard has always needed a little more of this. Instead, he’s tried to please everyone and in the process became the personification of modern NBA player problems. Even Howard’s dunk contest wins—unprecedented for a seven-footer—didn’t help him.

Image via Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

At 30, Howard will likely join yet another team this summer. This will probably be portrayed as yet another failure on his part, as if his 8.5 shot attempts per game last season (the lowest since his rookie season, despite shooting a career high 62 percent from the floor) were somehow his fault. Meanwhile, James Harden averaged—averaged!—19.7 shots per game and led the NBA in field goal attempts. The Rockets won 41 games and were eliminated by the Warriors in the first round. Yeah, that worked out great.

So move on, Dwight. Not only from the Rockets, but from opinions of proud know-nothing blowhards like Barkley and O’Neal and any other hot-take purveyors who listen to them. When Kenny Smith says you need to rebound more like Charles Barkley—a guy who averaged 11.7 per game to your 12.7—don’t just nod and agree. You averaged 11.8 rebounds per game THIS SEASON. A big man can’t make his teammates pass him the ball, but he sure as hell doesn’t just have to sit there and listen to bullshit. Next time TNT invites you to fill in, do what Harden won’t do and pass.

Here’s a secret: For as much as any of us talk about an athlete’s inner motivations, we don’t really know anything. Just because Dwight Howard smiles doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Just because Howard hasn’t won a championship doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win one. It’s a complex game that we attempt to simplify greatly, often at the expense of the people who play it. Dwight Howard’s winning a title won’t mean he’s suddenly undergone some sort of spiritual awakening as much as it will mean that he finally landed in the right situation. Redemption, if there is any, will be for us, not him.

Charles Barkley should realize this. Charles Barkley almost certainly does realize this, which makes his tiresome lecturing of Howard that much worse. The next time he wants to berate an immature Hall of Famer who never won anything, there’s no need to find Howard. He should just look in a mirror.