Dwight Howard
Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

Dwight Howard: Most Hated to Beloved Once Again



A decade ago, Dwight Howard was one of the biggest stars and faces of the NBA.



Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

He was a young, exciting player for the Orlando Magic, who took his stardom to new heights with his “Superman” performance that won the NBA Dunk Contest. Howard then led the Magic past the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James into the 2009 NBA Finals.

Orlando eventually fell in five games to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals that year. By then, Howard was a household name and superstar in the league, but Orlando never made it back to the Finals, and Howard was unhappy about the direction of the franchise.

Then, amid Team USA dominating the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the basketball world received the news that Howard was leaving the Magic to join the Lakers.


Not only was Howard going to Los Angeles, but Steve Nash was as well, and the Lakers once again looked like favorites to win the title.


Photo Credit: SB Nation

That 2012-13 season turned out to be an ugly one for the Lakers. They barely made the playoffs as the seventh seed, only to get swept by the eventual Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs. It was a season of turmoil plagued by many injuries that included the nucleus of Bryant, Howard, Nash, and Pau Gasol.

I barely remember Nash playing with the Lakers. His back was starting to tell him that his career was coming to an end, and he was simply there to collect a check as far as I was concerned. Then after a freak knee bang early in the season, it was a wrap for the Nash experiment in LA. The only reason the Lakers managed to sneak into the playoffs was that Bryant pushed himself to the limit, which ultimately resulted in his infamous torn Achilles injury.

That injury turned out to be the beginning of the end of his career. That season was also the last time the Lakers made the playoffs, and that streak will finally come to an end this year when the NBA season resumes at Disney World.

When it comes to Howard, most Lakers fans remember him for being a brat and giving up on the team as the season neared its end. The team and city tried to convince Howard to stay by putting up billboards across the valley that simply said “STAY” with the hashtag #StayD12, but he ultimately decided to leave for the Houston Rockets in free agency.

At that moment, to all Lakers fans, Howard became the most hated player in the NBA and an enemy of Bryant.


Howard went on to ball out for Houston, forming a dangerous one-two punch with James Harden.


Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The next time he faced the Lakers, Bryant let Howard know they were no longer friends and that he had made the wrong choice. That’s all good, but it didn’t seem like a bad choice for Howard as he continued to be an All-Star, and it looked like his career was still on an upward trajectory.

In the following seasons, things went south for Howard. He started to battle with a debilitating and severe back problem, and other injuries derived from trying to play through that back problem. He slowly saw his career turn from superstar to journeyman. He eventually went on to play for three teams in three seasons, making stops for the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Washington Wizards.

Going into the 2019-20 season, people didn’t know what to think of Howard and questioned what he had left in the tank. I never thought I would see Howard in a Lakers uniform again, but we will get to that shortly.


Before we get to Howard, we have to talk about how the Lakers were able to get him.


Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

The last time we saw Demarcus Cousins on the court, he tore his quad while playing for the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. When I heard that the Lakers had signed him, I was honestly not happy at all because although he is talented when healthy, he is very injury prone.

Before playing for the Warriors, he tore his Achilles as a New Orleans Pelican. Although I wished I were wrong, it did not take long for my opinion of Cousins to come to fruition again as he tore his ACL before the season even started.

With Cousins‘ injury, there was a vacant spot on the Lakers‘ roster. I could not believe when the news broke that the Lakers would bring back Howard to fill that void. It is safe to say that I was not the only Lakers fan who felt this way. I was upset because the Lakers signed one player I did not want and replaced him with another player that I definitely did not want.

I was a bit more accepting when I learned that Howard’s contract was non-guaranteed and that he would essentially have to earn the trust of everyone in the organization before he receives any of that guaranteed money.


When training camp rolled around, we all saw a new Dwight Howard.


He had a different ego and a different uniform number; luckily, he still had the same goofy and friendly attitude. He knew that he was no longer the All-Star caliber player from 10 years ago, and he accepted his new role as a strong and supportive teammate coming off the bench.

To my surprise, and I am sure many others, he did just that and provided an energetic 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds on 19 minutes per game this season. Together with Anthony Davis and Javale McGee (another player I originally was unhappy with the Lakers signing but I am a fan of now), they form a scary group of big men that make exciting plays for the Lakers every game.

Throughout the season, Howard has earned the trust and love of all the Lakers faithful once again, and most importantly, secured that guaranteed bag.

Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

As I look back at this bizarre season, I honestly always forget that Cousins was on the roster because he never played a game for the Lakers. I find it funny now because if it were not for him signing and getting injured, the Lakers would not have Howard and his resurrected career.

This season saw him return to the Purple & Gold and rekindle his friendship with Bryant. Bryant actually played a minor role in the Lakers signing Howard. It was also stated that Bryant would have helped and participated in some capacity in Howard’s return to the Dunk Contest, which we all know did not happen due to Bryant’s untimely death.


Even during the COVID-19 Howard has been able to take a stand and still be willing to be a part of the team


Photo Credit: ClutchPoints

On Saturday, Dwight Howard said in a statement to CNN that he agreed with Kyrie Irving and his reluctance to restart the season. He said that amidst all the social injustice that has been taking place, that has continued to happen. With the protests that seem to be changing the culture of society, he thought that starting the season would possibly take away from the progress being made.

“I agree with Kyrie (Irving). Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand that the majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families?

“This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonization stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The fewer distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It’s time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved.”


On Sunday, Howard wasn’t as certain and clarified his stance. His agent, Charles Briscoe told Dave McMenamin of ESPN:


“The statement was about social injustice and racism. Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.”


It remains to be seen how the rest of the season will turn out for Howard and the Lakers when the NBA resumes at the end of July. One thing is for sure: this has been a great comeback season for Howard. Will it end with him becoming a champion? Only time will tell.

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-Isaiah Torres – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24

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