First, I want to start off by giving credit where credit is due. The idea for this column came from fellow TJR writer, Matty J Douglas’ A Matter of Character Columns. These are absolutely brilliant and if you haven’t read them, I would highly, highly recommend doing so.
Dwight Howard, while not a professional wrestler or actor, is a complex man who people cannot seem to understand. No one can quite put their finger on who exactly he is or why he does what he does. I’ll admit, I have gone through my share of back and forth on Howard. I never thought he should’ve left Orlando, didn’t understand why he wanted fired the coach that made him a star and why he tries to draw the same media attention as LeBron James when he is nowhere near as marketable as a person nor as good of a player. That being said, I am going to shed some light onto this subject to see if together, we cannot figure out exactly who this man known as Dwight Howard, really is.
From a physical perspective, Dwight Howard is an incredible athlete. He is just short of 7 feet tall and weighs 265 pounds. To my eyes, that 265 pounds looks to be solid muscle and he’s an extremely imposing presence in the paint. His defensive ability, especially in rebounding and blocking shots is almost unparalleled right now in the NBA. Since coming into the NBA straight out of high school, he has never averaged less than 12 points and 10 rebounds in a season. In 9 seasons, he has only missed 15 total games. He has been productive and durable his entire career. Does he have limitations? Absolutely! His offensive game is very limited, he is a brutal free-throw shooter and he has a tendency to lose his temper (have to love watching your star player get ejected in the 2nd quarter of an elimination game don’t you Lakers fans?) That being said, I am pretty sure that any team in the NBA would take him as their starting center because I don’t think there isn’t a better center (sorry Roy Hibbert) in the NBA right now.
Let’s take a look at Dwight’s personality. Dwight seems to be a casual guy. He likes to laugh, have fun and just in general be a smiley guy. I remember over the last few years, Dwight doing several commercials, some of them pretty funny. He seems like a guy who would be very approachable and has mentioned in the past to have a strong Christian faith. At the same time, like any athlete, he is extremely competitive and wants to win. I believe that Howard is a hard working guy who wants to continue to improve at his craft.
What motivates Dwight Howard?? Well, that is where the questions really begin to arise. In an interview with Stephen A Smith just a couple weeks ago, he wants to be a winner.
Our natural inclination is to assume “okay, so he’s like every other athlete that wants to win NBA championships”. However, Dwight’s answer is uniquely different. He says he “already feels like he is a winner.” “He’s a gold medalist.” “He’s played in the NBA for 10 years when the average career is 3 years”. I would argue that winning NBA championships may not be his primary motivation.
Another common motivation among NBA players is to be considered an all-time great. Think about all the NBA greats: Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, Bird, Magic. All of these players wanted to be the best and they tirelessly put in the effort to be the best. Their careers are defined based on championships, statistics and when everything was on the line, how clutch they are. Is this the secret to what motivates Dwight Howard? I would argue the answer is no. He’s a great talent but does he want to be THE MAN like all of those guys above? The answer is simply, no. If he did, he would’ve stayed in Orlando. He was the man in Orlando. That town adored him and would’ve made him king if possible. In Los Angeles, Kobe pushed him to be the man. Kobe pushed him to take the reins, be a team leader, and have the same competitive fire as Kobe himself. Obviously, as Kobe and the Lakers found out, that is not how to motivate Howard.
Before I give away this secret, there is one more area that I wanted to take a look at. For a guy who’s pretty easy going and seems nice, Dwight finds himself in conflict with a lot of people. Whether its media, players or coaches, conflict seems to follow him like a disease. He clashed with Van Gundy in Orlando and with both Kobe and Di Antoni in Los Angeles. Now in fairness to Dwight, Kobe can rub A LOT of people the wrong way. After all, Kobe managed to make one of the nicest and most laid back people in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal, angry and actually leave LA. If I put myself in Howard’s shoes, I can understand his frustration with the Lakers hiring Di Antoni. He’s counted on and paid to be one of the best players on the floor but a guy who can’t shoot outside of 5 ft would struggle in an offense that is predicated on ball movement and spreading the floor. Howard has started to be labeled as a baby and someone who is very difficult to work with.
So, what is the secret?? How would someone crack the Da Vinci code that is Dwight Howard? I’ll give you a hint, I think Houston did it. He wants to be in a situation where the fans love him but the spotlight isn’t as bright. He wants to feel wanted by the team, fans and teammates. He wants to have a coach who respects the abilities of big men and be a key cog in an offense. He wants to be in a place where he can be successful while the team is successful. At the end of the day, Dwight Howard simply wants to be happy. He wants to love his job and be loved by the fans and teammates alike. He can handle some pressure but Houston won’t be the pressure cooker that is Los Angeles. The fans in Houston have tasted success but only their great team of the mid 90s. Dwight Howard will get a chance to grow his game with McHale as his coach and The Dream as a mentor. He has a teammate with that killer attitude (James Harden) who will take that last shot and is the face of the franchise. All Howard has to do is play great defense, rebound and develop his offensive game and he will be loved in Houston. The organization showed their feelings toward him throughout the recruiting process.
Houston is a great fit for Howard. Howard is a great fit for Houston. At the end of the day, I think you will see the same Dwight Howard we saw at the beginning in Orlando. A happy go-lucky big man who just wants to love his job, his team and his fans and be loved in return. What I wonder is, why is that so hard for us to understand? After all, most of us spend our lives searching for a job where we can love coming to work every day, work for someone who values our abilities and love our co-workers. Isn’t that a big part of the American Dream? Why are we critical of Dwight Howard living his American Dream?
I would love to hear your feedback on Dwight Howard. Please use the awesome Disqus commenting system. You can also hit me up on twitter at @weigel_a
As a bonus, here is Peyton and Eli rapping because it's awesome.