Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Dwight Howard Will Ruin the NBA

Dwight Howard likes to pretend he can be the next Michael Jordan. He likes to ruminate about beating Kobe Bryant and hoisting a trophy above his head, proclaiming he is the greatest star on the greatest team and is the 'second-coming' for basketball.

But he isn't. Dwight Howard is a virus.

With a supporting cast that is arguably more talented than he is, the Magic have ransacked the NBA this season. Yes, Howard did earn Defensive Player of the Year and led the league in blocks, but don't we all remember two other players who earned the same distinctions? Whose teams went on to win the championships for two or three years straight?

Dennis Rodman (Pistons, Spurs, Bulls)
Ben Wallace (Pistons)

Both these players were fantastic...for a few months, maybe even a year. They received accolades, were raised upon the pedestal to be envied. They were rebounding machines. Shot blockers extraordinaire. They were tough, rugged, mean. They were to be for the NBA what the classic rivalries were. But within a few years, they faded. Rodman became a sideshow attraction--the clown for the NBA's traveling amusement show. He paraded around on TV, in movies, on Jerry Springer, and lived a second life in the tabloids devoid of basketball, but including Madonna. Ben Wallace was supposed to be 'Mr. Unstoppable.' Feature-length pieces were written about him in Flex Magazine, Health and Fitness, and Men's Fitness. He was supposed to be the pinnacle of athletic perfection in the NBA. He was tall, solid and imposing. He was what the NBA needed--for two or three seasons.

Since coming to, ironically, the Cavaliers, he has been all but forgotten, relegated to a bench player that makes appearances when one of the 7-foot blunders fouls out or makes more than two successive stupid mistakes.

Dwight Howard is becoming luckier with each game, but it will be short lived. Like someone who is striking it rich in Vegas, he shows no signs of letting up, but just like Charles Barkley's massive gambling debt and ballooning weight problems, he will succumb to everything else around him and come crashing down in a fiery inferno that will swallow some of the NBA with him. The best he could do at this point would be, instead of insisting that he is the best player in the NBA, to admit that he is not the best, but instead of part of a well-oiled machine known as the Magic that have found the right strokes this season and are in smooth waters.

The hurricane known as Lebron James.

Just as Mr. Howard is enjoying his vacation from obscurity on the calm waters off of Florida, a hurricane will come--Lebron James. Perhaps Howard thinks he's better since his team (not him) ousted Lebron (not the Cavaliers), but it isn't so. It's tough to win a gang battle when your teammates bring knives to the gunfight.

I know I'm mixing metaphors, but Lebron James calls for multiple metaphors. He IS the second-coming and will arguably be better than Michael. His technique, percentages, personality, persona, intelligence, and (arguably) charisma outweigh Michael. What he lacks in age and experience he makes up for with numbers so enviable Dwight Howard cries.

To create a Lakers-Cavs finals would boost the NBA's ratings and help save Cleveland (as a city and a sporting venue). It would be riveting, competitive and entertaining. But Lakers-Magic is no more interesting than listening to Dwight Howard complain about being fouled unfairly in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He is blighting the NBA, and he doesn't even realize it.

Is this what we want the future of the NBA to be? A negligent, naive and ignorant player anointed temporarily and riding the coattails of a team assembled beautifully to win (if everything falls into place)? No.

Dwight Howard needs to wake up before it's too late. He could come crashing down--hard. He could become a victim of the NBA curse of Rodman and Wallace; and dually, he will become the victim of false presumptions that he can be a Kobe Bryant, Lebron James or a Michael Jordan.

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