“Dwight Howard wouldn’t come to nowhere where I was in the streets.”
Hall of Famer, 2006 NBA Champion, and 9 time All-Star, Gary Payton.
First of all, let it be known that I similarly would not step to Gary Payton under any circumstances. If a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my neighborhood, the authorities would be contacted
Was Gary implying that he would kill Dwight Howard? I choose to believe.
Years ago, I bought an Orlando Magic jersey with the last name Howard on the back. I bought the hype: who didn’t? He’s a phenomenal athlete. Athletes have rivaled the Lebrons and the Westbrooks, but Dwight is a member of an exclusive club that consists of two people: Karl Malone, and Dwight.
Malone didn’t just embrace his destiny: he took his destiny out on a romantic dinner date, seduced his destiny, and then made love to his destiny into the wee hours of the morning.
When you discuss the best power forwards to ever play the game, Malone is either in your top 5, or you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve got him right behind Tim Duncan, slightly above Larry Bird and Charles Barkley. But that’s beside the point: he was unstoppable.
Dwight Howard will stop himself for you. In fact, he’ll stop an entire franchise with the power of sheer Dick-headedness alone.
Enter the Dwightmare:
Dwightmare Part I: Magic Disappearing Act
Besides being the most dad-looking man to ever exist,
Stan Van Gundy is the current Coach/GM of the Pistons, and former coaches of both the Heat and the Orlando Magic. That sense of adoration and trust you’re currently feeling for him are natural.
With the first pick of the 2004 draft, the Magic drafted Dwight Howard in the hopes that he would develop into a franchise defining phenom. When Dwight told the Magic that he was unsatisfied with Van Gundy’s coaching, the Magic unsurprisingly acquiesced, hoping that the decision would persuade Dwight to remain in Orlando.
Less than 5 weeks later, Dwight demanded a trade. With less than a year left on his contract, Dwight was traded for pennies on the dollar. After making the playoffs 5 years in a row, the post-trade Magic posted a 23-59 record.
Franchise #1 destroyed.
Dwightmare part II: Drowning the Lakers
Just keep swimming, Dwight.
If you weren’t able to watch that entire video, whether due to repulsion, psychological trauma, or a combination of the two, I’ll give you a brief synopsis:
F**k this guy.
Dwight arrives in Los Angeles to a team that features 2 time MVP Steve Nash, MVP Kobe Bryant, Perennial All-Star Pau Gasol, Defensive Bull-dog Ron Artest, and a respectable supporting cast. On paper, the Lakers seemed immaculately conceived; on the court, the Lakers were an immaculate abortion.
In the interest of full disclosure, the 2012-13 Lakers had so many achilles heels that it’s anatomically impossible. It’s difficult even in retrospect to sort through the wreckage, but chemistry and health are the foremost culprits.
Dwight’s effect on chemistry has always been Dwight-centric. Cognitive dissonance abounds due to the internal conflict between his boundless potential and his mediocre offensive output. He’s good; he’s just not that good. Kareem Abdul Jabbar called him out on his inability to develop the post skills that would elevate his game to the absurd levels that many hoped he would reach:
“Dwight is an extraordinary athlete. He has incredible athletic ability, but basketball is a game where the most important muscle you use on the court is the one between your ears. Dwight’s basketball IQ is not up to speed for him to be a dominant player. He has problems at both ends of the court. He doesn’t have a go-to move.”
Even without dominant post skills, Howard could have easily been an incredible force for the Lakers, and in many ways he was. What Dwight failed to realize was that Kobe, Pau, and Nash were much better offensive options than Dwight. Instead of prioritizing defense and rebounding, he demanded a focal offensive role, despite not being properly equipped to do so.
Kobe recognized Dwight’s offensive shortcomings and acted accordingly. Kobe isn’t exactly the most happy-go-lucky player in the NBA, but if there is a way to win, he will figure it out. It’s tempting to cite the Shaq-Kobe feud in Howard’s defense: Kobe and Shaq always had a tempestuous relationship. Sure, they didn’t always get along, but they won 3 championships. They made it work because they wanted to win.
If Dwight had been willing to stay with the Lakers, develop as a player, and figure out his place in the greater team chemistry, there’s no telling what the team could have accomplished. But Dwight, again, chose to bail, this time leaving in free agency. By leaving Los Angeles after forcing the initial trade, which involved developing young players which the Lakers would love to have during their current rebuild, he left the Lakers in an absolutely devastated state. Pau Gasol would only stay for one more year before recognizing the futility of the situation and moving on. Shaq had this to say on Dwight’s decision:
“We’ve all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures.”
Next year, the Lakers finished with a 27-55 record, worst in team history.
Franchise #2 destroyed.
Dwightmare Part III: Rocket Crash
Today, Dwight plays for a Rockets team that has flourished with him absent due to injury. He is scheduled to return soon from months of knee procedures, which is troubling for his career when coupled with his previous trouble with back injuries. He has an opportunity now to adapt his game to complement an offense that flows through James Harden and a defense that has been consistently impressive all season. This could be a turning point for Howard. With the talent that the Rockets have, an impressive off-season showing would no doubt draw considerable free-agent attention to Houston.
We’ll see how Dwight manages to f**k everything up this time around.
Below is a link to a great Deadspin article on Dwight’s intolerable bullsh*t.