Remember when Dwight Howard came into the NBA straight out of high school? He was a baby-faced, awkward, braces wearing teenager that seemed to be on the straight and narrow. He came from a Christian background and was seen to be very religious.
As he got older, Howard began to come out of his shell a bit. We began to see a goofball with a huge body and dominating athleticism that promised to be a force both on and off the court. To most it was just a matter of time before Dwight Howard morphed into one of the biggest stars in the country, maybe the world.
But then, something happened. Something changed. And now all of a sudden, Howard has morphed into one of the most hated stars in the NBA.
So what happened? Where did it all go wrong? Sounds like we need a timeline.
Prior to the draft in 2004 – Howard goes public about his religion
Just before the draft in 2004, Howard states that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to “raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world”. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s the type of statement people remember. The type of statement people prepare to throw in your face if you ever mess up.
End of 2005 season – Howard selected to All-Rookie Team
Howard finishes his rookie season averaging 12pts and 10 rebs. It’s obvious that he can play at the NBA level.
2007 season – Howard has success on the court, issues off the court
2007 marked Howard’s first selection as a NBA All Star and his moniker as “Superman”. Something that rubbed a former Magic center the wrong way. It also marked his first (public) off the court issue. Howard had gotten ex-girlfriend and Magic cheerleader Royce Reed pregnant. She had his child in November, but the fallout from the birth would last much longer than just 2007.
2008 – 2010 seasons
Howard’s career takes off, but the off the court troubles continue. He is embroiled in ongoing legal disputes with Royce Reed over their child and there are rumors that he has fathered other children that he is not acknowledging in an attempt to protect his image.
2010 – 2011 season
Here’s where it all comes tumbling down on Howard. He put up monster numbers, but the Magic lose to the Hawks in the first round. A frustrated Howard seemingly decides he wants out of Orlando.
And here’s when things took a turn for the worse. Despite being warned about continuing to talk about his wanting out of Orlando, he continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. All while talking, he blamed everyone but himself. At one point, he gets caught in a lie, but it doesn’t stop him one bit. And now, no one has any sympathy for him.
So if we look back, it’s hard to pinpoint just where Dwight Howard began to lose his way. But it’s certainly obvious that he has. And it will take a herculean effort from whoever his PR firm is, most likely no one, to even get back a tenth of what he once had.