Back in his prime, Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard, playing for the Orlando Magic, was one of the best players in the NBA.
Between the years of 2007 and 2012, Howard averaged 20.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 59% from the field. Those are insane numbers for a player across a 4-and-a-half year span.
Dwight was always among the leading vote-getters for the All-Star game, finished near the top of MVP voting in multiple years, and led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, where they ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But then the 'Dwightmare' happened.
Dwight forced his way out of Orlando in favor of Los Angeles, suffered extreme back issues while playing alongside Kobe Bryant, a player who he didn't get along with at all, and left after one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history for a single team. Howard continued his career in Houston, where he was labeled as 'soft' by many fans, and where his numbers began to take a steep nosedive.
Howard continued his career in Houston, where he was labeled as 'soft' by many fans, and where his numbers began to take a steep nosedive. Playing alongside James Harden, Howard began to complain about a number of touches he would get per game, and decided to up and leave again in 2016 to his hometown of Atlanta, where he averaged a respectable 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds, but nowhere near the numbers he was capable of in Orlando.
Now, Dwight has landed in Charlotte, his 3rd team in as many years, where he hopes he can try and claw back some of that defensive dominance he was once renowned for.+
A piece written by Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated perfectly sums up the insane decline Dwight's career has had since his days in Orlando:
"In 2008, Dwight Howard had more endorsement deals than LeBron James. He appeared in seven nationally televised commercials. He disproved the long-held notion that big men beyond Shaq can’t move product. A year later he racked up 3.1 million All-Star votes, still the most ever. In piggybacking the Magic to the ’09 Finals, Howard led the NBA in blocks and rebounds and was fourth in field goal percentage. He was the best defensive player in the league and one of the most efficient scorers. When general managers responded to a 2009 NBA.com poll about which player they would sign to start a franchise, they picked James first, Howard second."
"Today, Superman is 31, on the back end of what was supposed to be his prime. Never married, he has five children by five women. He has lost millions of dollars to friends and family. He has at times been estranged from his parents and spurned by his costars. His endorsement portfolio, once brimming with Gatorade and Vitamin Water, McDonald’s and Adidas, Kia and T-Mobile, is down to a sneaker deal with the Chinese sportswear company Peak. He checked in last winter with 151,000 All-Star votes—11,000 fewer than Ersan Ilyasova. Next week Howard will go to training camp with the Hornets, his fifth team in seven seasons, who acquired him over the summer for backups Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli."
To see Dwight Howard where he is today compared to where he was back in 2009 is, to be honest, quite saddening. Just because of some bad back injuries and a below-average season in a large market team, his career has gone from an all-time great one to a mediocre one, with almost no chance of returning to the peak he used to play at.