The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their worst stretch in franchise history, missing the playoffs in six consecutive seasons.
However, the last time they made it was the 2012-13 NBA season with Kobe Bryant still leading the way while Dwight Howard was traded for to be the future face of the franchise.
That season is now looked at as the start of the downturn for the Lakers as Bryant infamously tore his Achilles late and Howard would leave in free agency to join the Houston Rockets. When the two sides faced off in the 2014-15 season opener, Howard and Bryant had a very tense moment in which the former swung an elbow the latter’s way.
The two had to be separated with Bryant being seen calling Howard ‘soft.’ The moment quickly went viral and Howard recently admitted to hating Bryant for years because of that, via Kristine Leahy’s Fair Game:
“I didn’t have a personal problem with Kobe. I just think that we were on two different levels mentally and he had never seen a person like me: someone who could enjoy basketball… I could understand why he would probably feel that way because he’s played with a lot of grown men for a long time and here I am a kid trying to come to the Lakers franchise and help win another championship. He had a comment about me being ‘soft’ and I think for years I kind of hated him for saying that because I looked at it the wrong way. I think he was more so talking about my mentality, not about my physique or how I am on the court. I didn’t realize that because of the noise surrounding him saying I was soft. I hated him for that moment, but I realized what he was talking about… I get it now. Everyone reaches different levels of maturity at different times and at that time, I was ignorant to the level he was at.
It sounds as if Howard felt Bryant was insulting him as a man as opposed to speaking about his on-court demeanor. Almost anyone who felt their manhood was disrespected would harbor anger and disdain towards someone for that. But now that Howard is older, he sees things differently and even appreciates Bryant for his remarks:
“I appreciate you, Kobe. Thank you for saying I was soft, I didn’t realize what you meant until now.”
Everyone matures at different times and Howard may very well be a much different person than he was in his younger years. The 33-year-old has been the butt of many jokes throughout his career, but at a time was the premier center in the league.
Injuries have hampered Howard in recent seasons, but he believes he can still contribute at a high level in the league. That opportunity likely won’t come with his former team despite his willingness for a reunion, but he could wind up being a contributor somewhere if a team is willing to take that chance.