What Happened to Dwight Howard?

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson - USA Today

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson – USA Today

Once a lovable, talented, and dominant young center, Dwight Howard has become an obnoxious enigma in this league. Where did it all go wrong?

Dwight Howard headlines over the past few years always seem to be in the negative perspective and now it has continued after what occurred last night.

During the fourth quarter of the opening night for the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets, Howard grabbed a rebound as Kobe Bryant tried to contest it. Howard then began to swing his elbows towards Bryant, which then seemed to connect with Bryant’s chin. Immediately the whistle blew which gave plenty of time for the two players to jaw at each other. It is unclear what Howard was saying but Kobe was seen mouthing “your soft” to Howard multiple times.  Somehow Kobe was assessed with a personal foul and Dwight was assessed with a flagrant. Both players received technicals as well.

After the game there were a lot of responses to the situation. Bryant’s response to the media was, “It’s fantastic…That’s the game. That’s all part of the game. Elbows are a part of the game. Trash-talking is part of the game. I don’t know where the NBA became so sensitive. It’s all part of it.”

In a different emotional response Howard gave a statement saying, “What do y’all want me to say, because I’m not [going] to give y’all nothing…It’s stupid. We won the game. It’s over with. I mean, there’s no need to go into it. We won the game. It’s about basketball. I mean it’s over with. It’s nothing. I’m not even focused on it.”

Then we have Laker’s coach Byron Scott giving the word of reason. “[Bryant] is a real serious guy and wants to win championships. I don’t know if Dwight is that serious about it,” he said.

Is Byron Scott right? Dwight Howard has had a good amount of chances to win a championship.  The 2008-09 season they lost to the Lakers in the Finals, but it was clear that the Orlando Magic were going to be the East’s top contender for the next few years. In the 2009-10 season, the Magic finished second in the East standings but were expected to reach the Finals again due to their success last year. The end result was losing in the Eastern Conference Finals (2-4)  to a overachieving Boston Celtics team that was the fourth seed entering the playoffs. That devastating loss seemed to derail Howard and the whole team, as they bowed down to the Atlanta Hawks the next year in the first round.

One may argue that Howard’s playoff stats are more impressive than his regular season’s (20 points, 14 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game vs 18, 13, and 2.7). But at the end of the day, Howard’s free throw percentage has still been a horrendous 58%. After the loss to the Hawks, the whole ‘Dwight wanting to leave and wanting to stay’ fiasco began. With so much indecision, Howard became a nuisance to the league’s fans who wanted to just make up his mind. The Magic’s small competitive success now seems like an eternity ago. That’s where fans started to love Dwight Howard, but now that he has abandoned two teams that had more than capable rosters. It seems he doesn’t have what it takes to be great. Of course Howard has been the best center in the league for sometime now, but no one has ever put him in the conversation with the game’s greatest big men.

Howard’s personality and attitude has over-gone a complete makeover for the worse. From what began as a fun-loving kid entering the league straight from high school and a person who was proud of his Christian faith and wanted to act as a missionary for the NBA to improve its image through his faith, Howard was deemed to become a person who stood for something and become the next great sports figure. Now that seems like a far-cry, as Howard is rumored to have multiple kids by multiple women and the number keeps piling as well (thanks to gossip websites). Howard has recently has been coming off very whiny during interviews and when he doesn’t get his way during games, blaming everyone else for shortcomings is a common occurrence. It seems like nobody is in Howard’s corner anymore.

We don’t know how Dwight Howard’s story will end, but it definitely has been one of the most unique careers an athlete has had. No one can deny Howard’s talent and capability as a good player, but something is just missing and it always will be.