After one season in Los Angeles playing for three head coaches, Howard, the most dominant center in the league, walked away from, yes, the Lakers. Talk about a kick in the teeth! It was the tweet that may change the balance of power in the National Basketball Association.
This is not comparable to the decision made three years ago in July when LeBron James took his talents to Miami. That decision was dealt with much fanfare, hatred and anger. The only comparison is that Howard, like James, had taken his previous team, Orlando, to the NBA Finals and lost to the Lakers.
Howard kind of just teased Los Angeles — he played one season with mixed results and then bailed. His legacy would have been potentially greater in Los Angeles.
After all, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal, three of the most dominant centers of all time, all won titles in Los Angeles.
For that he will not be forgiven. You can walk away from Orlando and Cleveland, two smaller markets, with no championship history. But not Los Angeles, where they build you statues and you get your own movie deals. It was more insulting than anything else to size up the two franchises and cast the other aside.
Howard will have a chance to help Houston in the rugged Western Conference. The big question is if he can help the Rockets dethrone the Miami Heat.
And more importantly, we know they can stand eyeball to eyeball with the state’s other powerhouses in basketball, San Antonio and Dallas. He will be a teammate with talented shooting guard All-Star James Harden and play for ex-Gopher star and Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale, who certainly can help him learn a few more tricks on playing in the post area.
Is Howard a leader? Is Howard a winner? Is Howard a dominant force? He appears to try to be liked by everyone. The sooner he figures out that winning is the only popularity contest that matters, then he can proceed with his new team.
Therein lies the true measure of how Howard will be measured in Houston. This franchise has had great superstar centers before and won championships: Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming.
For Dwight Howard, after leaving the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the greatest franchises in sports history, it’s now championship or bust in Houston.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.