Dwight Howard is still on the market as a free agent, waiting to see if he will play his 19th season in the NBA. He's had a tremendous career so far, averaging 15.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 18 seasons. Howard's confident he can add value to a team looking to win it all, but the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to move forward without him.
Amidst the uncertainty about his future, Howard was invited to the 'ALL THE SMOKE' podcast – and had a lot of stories to share.
Welcome to the NBA
Howard came into the league as the first pick of the 2004 NBA draft and showed a lot of promise. He was selected by the Orlando Magic and soon became the franchise's centerpiece. However, he took some time to settle in during his rookie season.
The late Kobe Bryant dunking on him is one moment Howard remembers vividly. It was the first time Dwight faced the five-time NBA champion, and apparently, he did not get the memo. The number 8 Bryant was one of the most explosive guards in the league back then, but Howard did not know that.
"What happened was, I didn't think he was going to dunk. … So then, I closed my eyes too, and all I heard was BOOM and OHHH. I said - 'Oh s***!'" Dwight recollected.
"So then, Brian Grant, he said 'Welcome to the league young fella.'… And then right after that, my homeboy, it was my birthday so he made a cake with Kobe dunking on me," he added.
Relationship with Kobe Bryant
Dwight improved considerably in the following seasons, establishing himself as a dominant center. He was an efficient scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker – winning three back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. Soon, he drew attention from the Lakers' front office and was traded to LA in 2012 – to play alongside Kobe.
Dwight came to LA and added value, leading the league in rebounds, but the chemistry between him and Kobe didn't quite kick off.
"I don't think it was the understanding we could have had with time, because there was so many expectations and I'm going through with my own s*** - with trying to recover from this back surgery," Dwight said.
"It's like how do I deal with somebody that I grew up watching as a child, but now we teammates, and we just played each other in the Finals," Howard added. "So, we got this rivalry like I want to beat his ass, but now we teammates."
The Lakers made the playoffs that season but were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. The Lakers traded Howard to the Rockets in the summer, and the narrative suggested that Bryant was not happy with his attitude.
Despite the media narrative and the fall-out, Howard got to spend some time and learn from the legend, as he swishes it could have worked out.