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Dwight Howard (born December 8, 1985) is the starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers in a blockbuster four-team trade in the summer of 2012. Howard had an illustrious high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, culminating his senior year with recognition as the McDonald’s National High School Player of the Year award in 2004; he also led the high school to the state championship that year.
After graduating from high school, Howard decided to skip out on the allure of the NCAA, instead declaring for the NBA draft. Much was made between whom the Orlando Magic would select with the first overall pick in 2004, Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor, the more developed college star from UConn. The Magic picked Howard, who would go on to anchor the team’s center position for the next eight years. Despite averaging a double-double (12 point and 10 rebounds a game) as an 18-year-old rookie, Howard was edged out for Rookie of the Year honors by Okafor.
In his second season, Howard became the youngest player ever to score 20 points and record 20 rebounds in one game. This feat came at the expense of the Charlotte Hornets.
Howard’s third year in the league proved to be monumental as it marked the first time Howard was named an NBA All-Star and also the first time he led the Orlando Magic to the playoffs, albeit being eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
In 2008, Howard’s fifth year in the league, Howard won the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. It was in this contest in which Howard began linking himself with the nickname ‘Superman’ by jumping from nearly the free-throw line while wearing Superman’s iconic red cape. This set off a mini-feud between Howard and Shaquille O’Neal, who claimed to be the original ‘Superman’ of the NBA.
Missing the Ring (2009-2012)
The pinnacle of Howard’s career as an NBA player thus far was when he guided the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Howard’s Magic were outmatched by Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers; the Lakers ousted the Magic in five games to secure the 2009 NBA championship.
Since reaching the finals in 2009, the Magic team slowly dismantled the core around Howard. Gone were Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Rafer Alston, three role players essential to the team’s title run in 2009. As a result, Howard and the Magic were unable to reach the finals since.
During the 2010-2011 season, reports surfaced that Howard was displeased with the Magic organization. Rumors swirled that Howard wanted to be traded and would not sign a contract extension in Orlando. The saga protracted into the lockout shortened 2011-2012 season, where Howard eventually opted into the final year of his contract despite heavy speculation of his desire to be paired with Deron Williams and the now-Brooklyn Nets.
Howard’s career in Orlando ended on a sour note. A back injury, which required surgery, ended his season prematurely on April 19th, 2012. Before getting injured, Howard was accused of being in conflict with head coach Stan Van Gundy, which ultimately led to Van Gundy’s firing on May 21, 2012. The severity of Howard’s injury was a shock to most fans around the NBA, as he only missed seven games in his seven years prior to the lockout-shortened season. Due to the injury Howard was forced to watch his teammates lose to the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. Howard also had to sit out on the United States Olympic team’s triumph to Gold in 2012.
New Beginning With Lakers
On August 9th, 2012 the Orlando Magic shipped Dwight Howard, along with Chris Duhon and Earl Clark, to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team mega trade. In return the Magic received Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and a batch of protected draft picks.
Howard’s arrival in a Laker uniform continued the rich tradition of dominant Laker big men. From George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers seemingly have always had an All-Star caliber big man to build around.
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Dwight Howard Highlights