There is no disputing Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and has been since the departure of Yao Ming and a younger Shaquille O’Neal. Though the long-term return may be greater with Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert, the dominance of the Toyota Center Tower cannot be refuted.
So why when I happen to tune into that four-letter networks’ television program that highlights and reviews the daily happenings in sports is Dwight constantly bashed for lack of loyalty and leadership?
Think back to previous centers who have graced the Houston hardwood with their presence. Most recently, Yao Ming was the 1st overall selection in 2002. He came into the league looking like a wet pasta noodle and left as arguably the best center at the time.
Yet, Yao was constantly under fire for being too weak around the rim. He wasn’t as good on the interior offensively or defensively. Blah, blah, blah, it is all an idiot’s excuse for why the team wasn’t winning. Never mind the fact that the starting point guard was Rafer Alston with instant-offense in an aging Juwan Howard manning the block opposite Yao.
Prior to that, quickly blowing past the glory days of Kelvin Cato and Maurice Taylor, Hakeem Olajuwon was bamboozling David Robinson and other centers around the league. But those outside of Houston may not appreciate how great Olajuwon really was. He does not receive the credit on a national level.
Houston, the soon-to-be third largest city in the country, gets the same national recognition as Milwaukee. It’s a place where players go to evade the national limelight and scrutiny and still enjoy the perks of a large city, plus exceptionally good and often cheap Mexican food.
Now, enter Dwight Howard. I do not think the manner in which the Rocketman made his decision was the best course of action, but neither was LeBron James’ in his maneuver to Miami. But for some reason people still buy the jerseys of the most dominant small forward in the league.
Howard was drafted by the Magic, who play in a city that aside from Mickey Mouse’s house is rather unappealing, with crime rates twice the national average. Orlando is not renowned for having a lot of things to do outside its child- and adolescent-oriented amusement parks. Something tells me the fun would wear off Cinderella’s castle rather quickly.
No sooner had Howard settled into Orlando then came the stories of complaints, which ultimately resulted in the firing of Stan Van Gundy and ended with the trade of Dwight Howard. The key word of that last sentence is “trade”.
Los Angeles is about as far away from Orlando as you can possibly get, both physically and metaphorically speaking. Despite being 2,520 miles apart from Orlando, Los Angeles is a city that is constantly in the limelight, something that definitely proved unsatisfactory for one brother in the newly founded H & H Hombres.
So when he had the opportunity to leave somewhere he did not fit in and wasn’t happy, what did he do? He left.
As a college student, I see or hear about this same phenomenon regularly. Students are not happy with their initial choice of schools, for whatever the reason. So they finish up that year, and then what do they do? They go somewhere else, where they are likely to be happier.
So why is Dwight criticized for doing what average people do on a daily basis? Granted, most average people don’t clog up national twitter feeds nor appear on your television on a nightly basis forcing you to watch as they stew over their decision process.
To condemn D-12 for not being loyal, as many have done, is ludicrous.
And yet, LA cannot forgive his desertion. When the Lakers recently won 99-98 in Houston, coach Mike D’Antoni avoided Howard when the game ended. He admitted, haltingly, to the snub: “I mean, down there somewhere, yeah, I’m human. It’s great to beat him.”
With his new team Howard is as usual one of the top three rebounders in the league. He has meshed very well with a younger Houston team, yet he is still criticized for being a poor leader.
In reality, as a center the only valid criticism to be made against Howard is his sub-50 percent free throw shooting. More specifically, his ability to make free throws in close games.
Kobe Bryant has a tendency to forget how to pass in close games. LeBron has tried to ride the coat tails of his teammates, until that did not work out. Stephen Curry and James Harden get stuck on the offensive side of the floor, yet they are all perceived as leaders of their teams.
It isn’t fair to criticize Superman for a lack of leadership, just as it is unfair to criticize a spoon manufacturer for national obesity.