Back in 2012, Dwight Howard signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as the new Big Man of the franchise in hopes of making a run to the NBA finals in the legendary purple and gold.
Dwight was 27 years old and just finished his 8th season with the Orlando Magic before departing for Hollywood. He was notorious for his rebounding and blocking ability, and everyone thought he would make a massive impact in L.A. with Kobe and Nash mentoring him.
Kobe, 34 at the time, knowing he had limited time left in the league, naturally put enormous pressure on his teammates and staff to live and breathe basketball. Kobe was known for challenging his teammates day-in and day-out to get the absolute maximum out of them. This fierce and competitive atmosphere made a lot of players, including Dwight, uncomfortable, but it eventually led to 5 rings.
Here’s what Kobe had to say about Dwight when they shared the locker room in the Staples Center.
“I tried teaching Dwight. I tried showing him. But the reality is that when you have a perception of what it is to win a championship – and most perceptions of what it’s like to win are a very outgoing, very gregarious locker room where you pick each other up, and you’re friends all the time. That’s the perception. And I think that’s what his perception was of what the idea is. But when he saw the reality of it, it made him uncomfortable. And it’s very tough to be able to fight through that, to deal with that challenge. And I don’t think he was willing to deal with that uncomfortable and combative nature.”
Dwight appeared on Fair Game with Kristine Leahy yesterday and talked about the problematic off-court situation surrounding him recently. He also touched on his Laker years and relationship with Kobe, and actually thanked Kobe for calling him out back then. Unfortunately, it only took him seven years to understand what Kobe meant by ‘soft.’
This goes to tell you how hard it is to build a championship team and how many different elements have to fit in perfectly for it to work. Dwight had it in him physically, but mentally, he was never even close to the levels of consciousness Kobe expects his teammates to have.