Dwight Howard was supposed to have been the next legendary big man. His power and athleticism reminded people of the other great big men that came before him. But somewhere along the way, Howard’s skill seemingly dwindled. From his point of view, it was due to other people’s demands that he should behave like the greats and not like himself.
Acting like Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Wilt Chamberlain
According to Howard, people told him to walk, talk, and play like the legends. To get rid of his goofy personality and start acting seriously. Howard followed their advice. Like any other star player, he wanted to stand out from the lot. But as it turned out, it made everything worse.
“I lost confidence in who I am as a player,” he recalls. “I’d hear people say, ‘You should play more like Shaq,’ so I tried to bully guys. But that didn’t work because I’m not as big as Shaq. Then I’d hear people say, ‘You smile too much, you should be more like Kobe,’ so I tried to put on a mean face and play mad. But I wound up getting all these stupid techs and flagrant fouls,” Howard said, per Sports Illustrated.
Besides putting the Black Mamba’s hat on, Howard wore a headband and kneepads like Wilt Chamberlain. He got so conscious of his behavior that he’d call his friends up during halftime for their thoughts on his game.
Don’t call it a comeback
From the looks of it, Howard started doubting himself sometime during his first stint with the Lakers. He didn’t mesh well at all with the great Kobe Bryant. Howard’s fun-loving personality had no place in the Black Mamba’s house.
After his departure, Howard played for four teams in six seasons. His numbers dwindled. And he was nowhere near the MVP and DPOY conversations he was in during his Orlando days.
The 2019-20 NBA season marked Howard’s return to prominence. He donned the Lakers jersey once again. This time, he teamed up with LeBron James. He came off the bench for the first time in his career. He was nowhere near the Howard of old. But the man showed off defensive IQ and experience, especially in the playoffs. Yes, it was LeBron and Anthony Davis’ team. But the Lakers would’ve never won that title without Howard.
That championship erased all doubts that Howard was a lazy and unmotivated player. When people saw his performance with the Lakers, they were reminded of how great Howard is. Unlike any other star player filled with ego, Howard seamlessly adjusted to his role. He understood what was needed of him, stayed ready, and delivered when his name was called.