It Is Impossible To Completely Hate Dwight Howard

It is time to come to the defense of Dwight Howard.

Throughout the 2012-13 NBA season, Dwight Howard has been called everything but a child of God. He has been ridiculed for not playing through pain by legends of the game, maligned by fans of the game and challenged by the old dog of the Lakers who wants nothing more than to win another championship and for Howard to outwardly display the intensity he shows on a game-to-game basis. He is arguably the most talked-about player in the NBA and for reasons that are not becoming. Despite the fact that he has not fully recovered from back surgery, he is still the best center in the League.

Even with that, he is the face of a team that has taken the word “underachieving” and bastardized it to levels that are rare. Hell, he got cussed out in the All-Star Game for Christ’s sake. Granted, I didn’t watch the Game, but that is what I heard, and sure, he makes millions of dollars and works in California, but money and where you live do not always equate to happiness and it is seen in the way he carries himself just about any time the man is in front of a camera this season.

Dwight Howard is going through it right now and a case can be made that his 2012-13 season, in terms of the vitriol, fury and anger that has come at his head, surpasses that of LeBron James during his final year in Cleveland. Granted, the parameters are not entirely the same, but since they are both superstars, that is why that is the comparison is being used. I, myself, have participated in plenty of discussions, bashing him and his tomfoolery, but I recently had an epiphany.

2012 13 los angeles lakers lineup

It was not that long ago that Dwight Howard was one of the most beloved players in the NBA, one of the most popular among a variety of fans and on his way to carving out a legacy that was unique in its own. On top of that, the same people who bash him now are mostly the same ones who were on the bandwagon back then.

In 2007, just six years ago, Dwight Howard entered the Slam Dunk contest and while he did not win, the rationale he gave to entering is because he wanted to bring glory to The Big Men Who Came Before Him in the Slam Dunk Pantheon. Can you believe it? A modern-day star-in-the-making accepting the challenge of righting the wrongs of the people who came before him? A man who wanted to bring fun to the fans in the Dunk Contest? I will not name names, but it is safe to say that not every superstar feels they owe the fans that courtesy, and despite him losing in 2007, it only served as fuel for him to come back in 2008 and do this…

When he did this, he had the world at his fingertips. Never mind the reality that the Orlando Magic were not contenders just yet. Dammit, they had Dwight Howard, a man of the people, a Slam-Dunk giant, and it was only a matter of time before he would continue his quest to please the people and change the landscape of the basketball world.

At this point, it did not even matter about the outcome of the contest. After Dwight dunked on a 12-foot goal, he basically showed the basketball world that the Slam Dunk Contest was his oyster and he could do anything he wanted and no one could beat him except for himself.

So when Nate Robinson was crowned the champion, it was not because he truly won it. It was because Dwight Howard, at that point, was not concerned about winning the crown anymore. He made his mark on the competition, gave the world three years of service to the competition, did something new each and every time he was in it, and he did not need another trophy to validate his position. Looking back, I not only respect it more, I even admire it.

Three months and some change later, the quest for world domination was continuing as he led the Orlando Magic over the Cleveland Cavaliers and into the NBA Finals with an absolutely dominating performance in Game Six and effectively sabotaging arguably the greatest string of Nike commercials we had ever seen. Yes, they lost in five to the Lakers, but the point is Dwight was having fun, the team was improving, his star was only getting brighter and even people who did not care for his antics were giving him props. Yes, he was a people-pleaser, but he was also about having a good time and when he was doing that, he was at his best.

Then came the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals and, to me, this moment was pivotal. For everything that was good about Dwight Howard, the Boston Celtics had a way of getting to him, especially in 2010. They had four bigs who could harass, foul and frustrate him to no end, and once that series began, I had my doubts that he would be mentally mature enough to handle himself against KG, Perk, Big Baby, and ‘Sheed. Well, once the Celtics jumped on their asses 3-0, I figured Orlando would roll over in a grandiose sweep.

However, they did not and that is because Dwight Howard refused to let them die. After falling down 3-0, the Magic won the next two and lost in Game Six, but over those three games, Dwight averaged 27 and 13 along with three blocks a game. Considering the odds against the Magic and especially against him, he could have quit and not too many people would have said much, but he continued to play through the physical beating the Boston front line put on him and earned a respect from me simply because I did not know he had that dog in him. Yes, he was the leader of the team that got beat, but they did not quit and be publicly shamed and humiliated in a fashion that only a sweep can provide.

After that, everything went to hell. They lost in the first round in 2011 to the Atlanta Hawks. He was involved in the strangest public confrontation I have ever seen with The Master of Motivation, Stan Van Gundy, before a game. Then he injured his back and THEN he was out for the 2012 Playoffs. That basically signaled the beginning of the end. Going to LA in the off-season could be seen as the beginning of his reclamation project, but the Lakers had so many holes before he got there, along with him not being completely healthy, that we, as fans, are witnessing this sorry excuse of a basketball team called the Lost (I spelled it like that on purpose) Angeles Lakers now.

I am not sure what is going to happen the rest of the season and beyond, but I am willing to give Dwight Howard the benefit of the doubt. He has been a man of the people ever since he got in the League, so when he says he is hurt, then I will take his word for it and hope for the best as opposed to stomping my feet and demanding more from him. Yes, he has done some stupid stuff over time, but so have plenty of NBA players that are deemed superstars. At one time, fans wanted more from him, but it came from a positive place. Now fans want more, but it is coming from a place that is far from positive, and while I get it, it does not mean I have to participate with them.

Dwight Howard has shown he can respond to adversity and to the needs of the basketball public when it is coming from a good place as evidenced above. He has earned the right to show he can respond when the chips are down as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *