Deep breath. Deep breath. Don’t let that anger or jubilation or frustration boil over too much. Everyone’s ecstatic that the Dwightmare is finally over, but no one’s too pleased that the Los Angeles Lakers, once again, reeled in the best center in the league. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Andrew Bynum, now Dwight Howard. But it’s not really over, because, as ESPN’s Marc Stein put it last night on SportsCenter, he wants to “test drive” Los Angeles. Yep, this could all mean that the Lakers deal Howard at the deadline because he refuses to sign an extension (That’s admittedly an unlikley scenario because L.A. will not want to disrupt their title chances, even if that means they lose Howard for nothing. That’s what would have happened to Bynum anyway.) or he drags on his free agency in July 2013. But, at least for now, we’ve got months of respite and relaxation, and we can focus on the misery of our own teams.
Howard did have some good years down in Orlando, as his NBA Defensive Player of the Year three-peat would suggest, and there was a time when we liked that big and affable goofball. So let’s look back at the better moments, when we appreciated, as opposed to villified, his athletic genius. Here are his top 10 moments during the Orlando era – or, really, the top moments of his career thus far.
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10. Dwight Howard smacks John Wall’s layup off the backboard
You’re really not initiated into the NBA until a better player embarrasses the hell out of you, and that’s what we have here. You can even see Howard letting Wall race ahead just to catch him from behind and send that shot all the way out to the free throw line. Don’t worry – there was a time when Howard was on the other side of that initiation, with Kobe Bryant doing the honors.
9. Dwight Howard becomes the all-time Magic scoring leader
At 10,651 points, Dwight Howard became the all-time Magic scoring leader earlier this season, passing former Orlando guard Nick Anderson. Of course it happened on a two-handed slam, his most powerful and efficient and recurring play. Too bad he won’t be able to increase that number now that he’s a Laker, but it’s still a pretty impressive feat in such a short time with the team.
8. Dwight Howard sticker dunk
We all know Dwight Howard can jump really high. That’s never really been a secret. But on a ten-foot hoop, a lot of that luster is lost because there’s no point in over-jumping the rim. Well, Howard solved that problem by attaching a sticker to his hand during one dunk contest and slapping it onto the backboard. AT 12 FEET, SIX INCHES. That’s really, really, really high. He didn’t get the greatest of scores for the dunk, but we’ll side with Kenny Smith’s enthusiasm on this one.
7. Dwight Howard Posterizes Omer Asik
Credit Asik for not backing down, even after Howard drops his shoulder and levels him into the out-of-bounds area. Asik still goes for the block, but it’s way too late. He’s stuck under the basket, gets no lift, and all of Howard’s momentum and strength is rising forward and up. And not only that, but he throws the ball down so viciously that the 10-foot Asik just sort of backs away before finding the ball and going the other way.
6. Dwight Hoawrd sends Mehmet Okur hook shot into stands
This is why Mehmet Okur should never post up again. Howard sends his feeble left hook into the third row with little effort, and doesn’t even react. Not to knock Howard for a sick rejection, but it’s plays like these that makes me think: can’t he just knock it to a teammate? Clearly he makes the block with relative ease, and puts a little umph behind it for an intimidating effect. But this way is more fun, I guess.
5. Dwight Howard imitates Stan Van Gundy
Those were the days, when these two were friends. Van Gundy is a suffering perfectionist, the sign of any good coach, so eeking out every last ounce of talent out of those talentless Magic teams must have been excruciating. Dwight was probably good for Stan, lightening things up every once in a while. But it worked the other way too, because maybe Howard should have taken basketball more seriously, or at least worn a more serious demeanor. In any case it all ended pretty badly, and now we can only remember the lighter times like these thanks to a fractured relationship.
4. Dwight Howard posterizes Jrue Holiday
Here’s another in the long list of Dwight Howard dunks, but this one’s particularly nasty if only because Jrue Holiday was caught in the crossfire. Despite his best efforts to cower and run out of the way, Howard’s momentum barrels him over and sends him flying into the stands. Maybe the best part is that momentary realization, when Holiday goes up for the ball thinking he can knock it way, only to find himself directly under Howard and on the wrong end of a ferocious alley-oop.
3. Dwight Howard wins game against San Antonio on alley-oop
It’s the oldest trick in the book from the sidelines inbounds. With the game tied and only 0.8 seconds remaining on the game clock, it’s nearly impossible to get off a legitimate shot. So Stan Van Gundy drew up a lob for Howard instead, which, considering his ridiculous athleticism, isn’t a bad idea. Even if San Antonio knew this one was coming, there was little they could do. If the ball is thrown high enough and with the right trajectory, no one’s stopping Howard from catching it and throwing it down. And that’s exactly what happened.
2. Dwight Howard clinches Finals’ appearance for Magic in 2009 Eastern Conference Finals
Remember when Dwight Howard out LeBron-ed LeBron and led his band of hapless teammates to the NBA Finals? We all expected the dream Cleveland-Los Angeles matchup, but it wasn’t meant to be as Howard came out in Game 6 and completely dominated. His 40 points and 14 rebounds overwhelmed the Cavs bigs, and even though LeBron James accounted for 108 of the 184 buckets Cleveland scored in the series, Howard’s presence down low proved too much to handle. The Magic lost in the Finals to the Lakers, but that was the season that put Howard on the map as not only an NBA All-Star, but a player that a franchise could be legitimately built around.
1. Dwight Howard comes out of the phone booth dressed like Superman at the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest
Blake Griffin may have co-opted the non-dunk dunk, where he throws the ball ferociously through the rim without actually touching it, but Dwight Howard was his predecessor during the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The dunk itself wasn’t too special, but the theatrics were bar none the best the dunk contest had seen in a while. I mean, seriously, dude brought out a phone booth AND an extra basket. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
What’s Dwight Howard’s best moment as a member of the Orlando Magic?
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