Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic’s No.1 pick to Dwightmare’s fall: ‘I wouldn’t wish that on anyone’
June 20, 2022
The Orlando Magic have the first pick in next Thursday’s draft. The last time this was the case was in 2004, when a certain Dwight Howard found his way to Florida. What began as a love affair ended in an ugly departure. Superman became Dwightmare, who was never able to build on his achievements again. The reasons for this can also be found in the turbulent career of the Big Man.
“Suddenly I went from good guy to devil. You can’t understand that. I don’t wish anyone to go through what I went through.” in one notable feature of Sports Illustrated an extremely tidy Dwight Howard looked back on his career in 2017 and tried to answer a question: what happened to Superman, who was the dominant player in the center position between 2007 and 2012?
There is no simple answer to this, but there are many approaches that paint a picture of an athlete who was overwhelmed by all the things that came his way during his time in the NBA. Mainly because his deep faith had previously protected him from the wide and oh so dangerous world. And these omissions had to be made up for later.
Howard’s youth was marked by Bible studies, church attendance at the Fellowship of Faith in East Point, Georgia, and prayer. Sent by his parents to a private school, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, he proudly told his peers that as an NBA player, he would ensure that the silhouette of the NBA logo was enhanced with an oversized cross.
At least the thing with the NBA player shouldn’t be a problem at all: Thanks to his height of well over two meters in the ninth grade, combined with an impressive speed, he dominated the opponents. As a senior in high school, he played state championship wins 25 and 18, was co-MVP with JR Smith at the 2004 McDonald’s All-American, and Orlando tied for one.
“Your commission is to use basketball as a platform for God’s glory,” the Fellowship of Faith pastor told Howard in his early years – an attitude that has made transitioning into the top basketball league in the world a culture shock came. Seasoned NBA players Tony Battie and Steve Francis invited Howard to a club only once after he told them that God had spoken to him in the bathroom. They were afraid they would spoil him.
Howard, a self-confessed virgin as a rookie, turned his isolation and anger into energy, put in countless hours in the weight room, and became the player Magic fans wish they could remember forever: double-double. Machine, subscription all-star, best defenseman in the league, spectacular dunker and most importantly the one who led Orlando to the Finals in 2009.
In 2008, Howard had more endorsement deals than LeBron James, who would quickly become THE face of the league. In 2012, Howard collected 3.1 million All-Star votes, a record that was only to be broken by James in 2019. And which player should a franchise start with, according to a GM survey by NBA.com Start a rebuild in 2009? 1st place: LeBron, 2nd place: Howard.
He cannot name an exact point in time when “real” life caught up with Howard, apart from faith: “I came out of a small box in which everyone wanted to protect me from the big world. But when I finally entered it and myself looked around, I wanted to experience everything.” Accordingly, when asked whether he followed his pastor’s advice, his answer is “yes and no.”
Dwight Howard: “I was ashamed”
Back in Magic’s days, he had an illegitimate son (there would be four children by four different women in six years) with cheerleader Royce Reed, which led to a full-on falling out with his devout parents. “I was ready to try anything. I’d heard so much about these strip clubs, so let’s party like the older boys. You’re young, you’re on TV and all these beautiful women come to you.”
After the birth of child number one, he was “ashamed because I had talked so much about being a Christian, revealing my faith to the whole world – and suddenly here I was, with an illegitimate child”. His parents judged him that he felt “as if I shouldn’t even be in public anymore because everyone saw me as a hypocrite”. What was he thinking? “I don’t need the relationship with God anymore. And that caused a lot of pain.”
In addition, he lost many millions due to being taken advantage of by friends and co-workers. A six-figure sum for a limousine or a seven-figure sum for a private jet – not uncommon. “They knew: Dwight is distracted, he’s not paying attention. We can take advantage of that. What I learned from that: What you do off the field affects what you do on the field. I lost my confidence .”