About 12 years ago, I remember hearing about how this rookie big man was coming into the league straight out of high school and was going to reestablish the importance of the center position in the NBA. I also recall that his religious resolve that had the lofty goal of adding the cross to the NBA logo next to Jerry West’s silhouette.
Not that I think the latter is in any way something that should happen, but the excitement of a dominant center to carry the torch from someone like Shaquille O’Neal is always appealing to me. And clearly, Dwight Howard came into the NBA with big dreams and even bigger expectations for himself.
As he turns 30 today, I can’t help but be disappointed in his NBA career. I followed Dwight for about 10 years (even buying a considerable amount of his sneakers like the Louisville PEs pictured above) before finally getting to meet him in person during a Finish Line photoshoot in 2014. He’s incredibly funny…obviously.
To give credit, Dwight Howard is an incredible basketball player as well. His 11-year career has seen him make eight NBA All-Star teams, a Slam Dunk title in 2008, multiple years as rebound and blocked shot leader, and two really strong runs into the Playoffs (once with the Orlando Magic in 2009 and then last year with the Houston Rockets). But as much as I liked watching Howard play and was truly a fan of his signature line from adidas, I can’t help but think about all the drama that has followed him throughout his career.
The eight kids from eight baby mamas. The way he left Orlando. The blackmailing to get out of Los Angeles. Maybe it’s not my place to say. Maybe my expectations for everyone are too high. Maybe I just feel burned as a lifelong fan of the NBA, who got a little too excited about the possibilities of an overzealous rookie that was out to change the world. Or maybe I’m just jealous of the Gatsby-themed birthday party I wasn’t invited to.
But regardless of whether his mission from God lived up to the standards of everyone else, I still want to see Dwight Howard win an NBA Championship. If nothing else, so I can remember him for his on court performances (and have a reason to keep all of his sneakers) and not all the off court spectacles that seem to have impaired my vision of him in recent years. I’m reluctantly optimistic, but he’s probably got at least another 5-7 years to make it happen.
Damn it, I love this game.