Without LeBron James, there would be no Dwight Howard. Or at least, there would be a different Dwight Howard from the one we know now. The L.A. Lakers big man shared how The King inspired him to get better after losing to James in a high school game.
That’s what I gotta get to if I want to be the best player in the nation
Dwight Howard appeared on the Knuckleheads podcast hosted by Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles and shared a memory of his high school days when LeBron James inspired him to get better even before they entered the NBA.
A high school game featuring a stacked LeBron team with Kendrick Perkins went up against D12’s team. At that time, Howard admitted he was clueless about who James was.
“I didn’t know who he was. I’m at home, and I’m asking my homeboys like, ‘Hey, y’all ever heard of this dude LeBron James? He’s supposed to be like number one.’ And they were like, ‘You finna find out.’ So we go down to Houston and they were warming up. The whole team watching LeBron warm up. First play of the game, he just dunked everything. I said, ‘Okay, that’s LeBron James.”
It’s hard to believe D12 had not heard of James back then. The Akron, Ohio native was all over the news and was even on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2002. The former Orlando Magic center revealed his team lost, but it was a personal win for him because of his lesson after the game.
“We lost the game, but it like amped me up to say, ‘Okay, this is what I gotta get to if I want to be the best player in the nation.’”
Howard stayed true to his word, eventually making the NBA finals at the expense of the man who inspired him to get better. The Orlando Magic defeated the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 NBA playoffs.
Dwight Howard’s career
James and Howard are now teammates in L.A. Lakers. After D12 played for Orlando, he had stints in Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, and Philadelphia 76ers. He was once on top of the league but dropped off due to injuries and several narratives against him.
Dwight was painted as someone who didn’t care enough. He was seen as a happy-go-lucky who never really pushed himself to achieve his best version. And the stories caught up with him. Despite his illustrious career, Howard never made it to the NBA’s Top 75 players. D12 won the Defensive Player of the Year three times, became a part of All-NBA Teams eight times, an NBA champion, and an 8-time All-Star. But fans quickly forgot these achievements. They remember when Kobe Bryant called him soft in an altercation and his goofy antics on and off the floor.
No matter what other people perceive him to be, the numbers don’t lie. Dwight Howard put up one hell of a career. He deserves to be a part of the NBA’s Top 75 players and even the Hall of Famer someday. And he probably should thank LeBron James for setting the standards high as a high schooler and inspiring him to become better.