At the peak of his prime in Orlando, Dwight Howard was considered the most dominant big man in the NBA and even drew comparisons to a young Shaquille O’Neal. Nevermind how poorly Shaq reacted to those comparisons. Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the Magic to the 2009 Finals, where they would fall to the eventual champion Lakers.
In order to get there, he had to get past LeBron and the Cavs, who seemed predestined for a showdown with Kobe and the Lakers before Howard spoiled the ubiquitous Nike commercials that tried so desperately to will it into being. Howard and LeBron were Eastern Conference foes for many years, but never did he dream he would one day team up with the King.
Flash forward to the 2019-2020 season, and not only is Howard playing alongside LeBron, he’s doing it with the organization where he had a disastrous and short-lived stint back in 2012. And before the pandemic put the season hold, Howard was proving that he could still make meaningful contributions to a team with title aspirations.
If you ask Howard about it, he can still hardly believe any of it is true, as he told Jared Dudley in an Instagram Live interview on Wednesday.
“Man, it’s been wild, man. I remember telling my sister, man, me and LeBron been playing against each other since we were 15, 16 years old. And I was like, man, we’ll never play with each other, you know? We always, like, playing against each other. All of a sudden, we end up teammates. I couldn’t believe it. And I’m like wow, this is crazy, I’m playing with LeBron James. It’s still shocking. We like brothers from another mother. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.”
Lakers fans had mostly shown that they could forgive and forget, giving Howard the much-needed clean slate he’d been hoping for as he made himself a valuable rotation piece. The Lakers had raced out to a 49-14 record and the top spot in the West before the shutdown and looked poised for a deep postseason run.
With the NBA currently trying to figure out how to safely resume the season, Howard might yet have a chance to bring things full circle and handle unfinished business from his first-time around in Los Angeles nearly a decade ago.