If your basketball perception of Dwight Howard is based off his most recent years as a Laker then quite frankly, you don’t know Dwight Howard. While your judgement might be clouded by him adjusting to the trend of the game as he ages, we cannot forget that he’s one of the most dominant centers to ever play the game. There’s no way to invalidate a career featuring over19,000 points and nearly 15,000 rebounds. Prime Dwight Howard was unstoppable and he was just three wins away from leading a team to a title in an era dominated by Kobe, LeBron, the “Big 3” Celtics and the Spurs.
“Because I’m getting old,” Dwight Howard says on fans forgetting his prime. “But I know that in my prime. it’s a wrap. It’s a wrap… I’m Dwight Howard. I know what I’ve done in this league… all-time centers, I’m top 10.”
Dwight is putting himself amongst the greats and rightfully so but while people were quick to crown Nikola Jokic as a top center to ever play the game, Dwight made his case on why his prime is still better than the Jokic’s prime.
“Obviously, people going to say Jokic can score. He got all those offensive skills,” Howard says. “But at the same time, I was getting 38 and 20, 45-18, 19, 20, and I’m doing all this with twos. No threes, all twos. I’m doing this with lobs. I’m not getting a lot of post-up attempts like Jokic. He’s getting way more opportunities.”
Whether it’s being left off the NBA75 team or the jabs from NBA Twitter, many are quick to forget Howard’s peak in his illustrious career but when it’s all said and done, he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. We caught up with Howard to talk about his legacy, making a return to the NBA, his advice to Zion Williamson & Ja Morant plus more.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Ballin’ in TaiwanWe can jump right into it. How was your season in Taiwan? How would you summarize that experience?
Man, it was probably one of the most unforgettable seasons, experiences that I’ve ever had in my life. It’s the first time I ever played overseas in international basketball like this and staying overseas. It was a totally different experience living in Taiwan for seven months, being a part of a whole different culture, trying different foods and stuff like that. But as far as basketball, it’s like I got back to myself. I got back to just hooping, having a good time dominating and just playing free.
DWIGHT HOWARD attempted 10 THREES during his ridiculous debut in Taiwan
8/12 Free Throws
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 19, 2022
We saw you shooting threes. I know you’ve always said that you had the jumper,. Was that something for you to show that you always had in your game? Why did you open up your game a little bit more?
Oh, well, I was just given the freedom out here. The coach, he barely spoke English, so sometimes he would just say, “Give Dwight the ball.” So, it was just it’s your world. Anything you want to do, you got the ultra green light. You want to shoot threes, want to bring the ball up the court, just go hoop.
Do all the things that you know how you can do. It was fun, man. I did a 3-point contest, that was an experience. I thought I was going to do a little bit better. I thought I was going to get more than 15, but 15 is nice. It’s nice.
Why Taiwan? Did you feel like you could use Taiwan to prove to NBA teams you still got it?
When it happened, I was waiting for calls in the NBA and stuff like that. We were reaching out to teams and we were getting some teams that was interested, but I didn’t know how interested they really were. And I saw an opportunity in Taiwan. At first I was like, “Nah, I don’t know.” It’s Taiwan, I haven’t been in a long time. The first time I went, I was 18. Then I went in, I want to say it was 2013 and I think 12 or 13, I went again.
But I’ve never been out there and stayed more than a week. So, I was like, “Man, I don’t know about Taiwan.” But then, I prayed about it and God said, “Hey, move to Taiwan. I need you to learn. I need you to experience something.” And man, I’m so glad that I listened.
To the point of NBA teams not being interested, do you feel like you were pushed out in a way unfairly or blackballed?
I could say that I have and then it could be people that say that well, I did some things that could have put me in this position. So, it could have been a little bit of both. I’ll just say I’ve surpassed anybody’s expectations or whatever they thought would be about Dwight Howard playing in the NBA expectations as a basketball player. Careers don’t last but four years, three to four years in the NBA. I’ve surpassed that playing 19 seasons and still playing. So, it’s always two ways you can look at life.
And I know I’ve done some things and there could have been some areas that I felt like teams have me a little bit dirty. But overall, I feel like I had a dominant career. I feel like there’s been some things that I’ve been shafted obviously with top 75, stuff like that, but I’ve already basically gotten over that.
We talk about it so much man, I hate even bringing it up because it’s more so it’s like when somebody agitates you like, “All right, man, it’s enough.” But man, I’m grateful. I do want to make it back to the NBA.. I can still play. Definitely want to show teams that I can still dominate even at being this age and still play at a high level and come back out on top.
Prime Dwight Howard
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One thing I kind of noticed with NBA fans is they kind of forget prime Dwight Howard a lot?
Yeah, because I’m getting old.
Yeah, they let the latest version of you cloud what the prime was.
Yeah, I think more so it was they were used to me playing and just catching lobs and dunking and blocking shots. But they got to realize No.1, it was a different era and then, the time that I was playing on the court was a different time. So, this is AD’s time when I played with AD & LeBron. It’s their show.
And I wasn’t mad about that. I knew that I had a role on the team to do. So, a lot of people look at how you play today and they’re trying to put that as who you have been your whole career. But I know that in my prime. it’s a wrap. It’s a wrap.
I think I was reading the other day where you said your prime is better than Jokic right now-
Yeah, of course. Obviously, people going to say Jokic can score. He got all those offensive skills. But at the same time, I was getting 38 and 20, 45-18, 19, 20, and I’m doing all this with twos. No threes, all twos. I’m doing this with lobs. I’m not getting a lot of post-up attempts like Jokic. He’s getting way more opportunities I would say as far as to show his low post game and all that stuff. And I was just in a different era.
So, people look at that and say, “Well, Jokic, he scores and does all this stuff.” And no offense, I think he’s great. I love Jokic. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to hate even comparing, but I’m going to take myself. I know how dominant I was and I know what I could do with my skills. And on the defensive end and on the offensive end I was quick enough to get past everybody.
So, I didn’t necessarily have to use skill moves and stuff like that all the time to score. I use my speed a lot. I use power to finesse or sometimes speed to finish with power. I just had an array of different things but people just remember seeing me dunk the ball on people’s head.
And I love Jokic and I’m happy for him. I think he’s one of the best centers that ever played the game on basketball, but I’m not going to throw dirt on my own name. I’m Dwight Howard. I know what I’ve done in this league.
A lot of people have now said the Jokic is a top five center of all time. Where do you see yourself ranking among the greats at the position?
All-time centers, I’m top 10. Top 10 all-time. I know everybody what they’re going to say with Shaq, Hakeem, Wilt, Kareem, and then you got Moses Malone.
Bill Russell, those are top seven right there. And then, between seven, eight, nine, 10, I’m in that spot. I’m in that spot. And I got almost 15,000 points, 16,000 points. I’m sorry, it might be more than that.
Almost 15,000 rebounds. That’s a lot of rebounds and I played in a different era. People be forgetting as far as bigs and stuff like that. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he had the most points in NBA history. He didn’t shoot threes, so imagine how hard it was for him to get those many points.
And LeBron just caught him and LeBron had a chance to shoot threes and drive to the basket and it took him 20 years, 19. Just think about what Kareem was doing in order to do that. And Wilt just doing two pointers. So, it’s totally different. And Karl Malone, he didn’t shoot threes. So, these are big men that’s scoring a lot of points and they only scoring twos.
You shorted yourself. You got 19,000.
19,000 points? See, that’s what I’m saying. That’s 19,000 points. 15,000 rebounds. That’s a lot. That’s a lot.
Return to the NBA
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If you look at the centers today in the NBA, what percentage of them do you think you’re better than like, ‘I can give more than he’s giving?’
Well, I personally in my opinion believe that you have an upper echelon of centers that’s playing now and obviously, I’m not at my peak so people would consider me at this playing stage as being upper echelon. But I know that there’s at least 15 to 20 teams that I could play for. And I know there’s teams that got great starting centers, but I know I could be a great backup center.
I know I can provide a team with 25 minutes of dominant basketball. And that’s not even scoring, that’s just playing defense, locking people up, protecting the paint, rebounding, and finishing around the basket. I’ve had my fun in the game. I just want to go out like a champ like I’m supposed to.
Teams like Miami and Brooklyn could’ve used you last season.
I wanted to come to Brooklyn so many times, man.
So many times I wanted to. There’s a lot of issues. I know a couple times they said they wanted a big that could shoot and I’m like, ‘Man, y’all already had a big that could shoot in LaMarcus Aldridge. Why won’t y’all try another route?’ They had Claxton and I like Claxton. I think he’s been killing it. You know what I’m saying? But it’s just a level of experience that I’ve had and I still feel like I’m one of the best. Even at this age, I still feel like I’m one of the best.
Advice to Ja and Zion
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Aside from basketball, I did want to get your thoughts on Zion Williamson, as you were a No.1 pick who’s been through turmoil and people publically commenting on your personal life. What’s your advice to him and how did you work through what you went through in your career?
Man, I’m going to say that’s real tough because in the NBA, man, it’s really hard to find people you could trust. You know what I’m saying? Any professional sport, any I guess, celebrity, anybody that’s has a bit of fame, it’s hard to really find a lot of people you could trust. And I’ve dealt with a lot of different things in the league and the way I dealt with it is just, I took it as everything in life is an experience and you have to be able to go through it.
It’s something that you don’t want to go through and that you don’t have to, but we were put here to experience and you’re going to go through a lot of different experiences and people wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be in the NBA to have their whole life plastered on the internet. Have people be able to look up how much you make, how many problems you got in life, who you dated.
Just all these things are readily available for people to access online and that could be a lot. That could be a lot of pressure for a lot of people. And I would say at the end of the day, just be grateful and live. That’s what I did. Good or bad or indifferent, whatever’s been said, whatever happened, the goods, the bad, the ugly, I got a opportunity to do something that I love for a living. And any time you pray for rain you got to take the mud that come with it.
So, it’s always going to be some bad to come with all the good that you want to receive. And it’s hard, it’s rough. And there’s days where I’m like, “Man, fuck this.” But this is what I prayed for and I’m very grateful for it. I’m very thankful and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I don’t have no regrets. I made some mistakes. I made some errors, learning lessons, but it’s made me a better person.
And even what’s your thought process on-
Oh, I wasn’t even thinking of Ja. but I guess if you want to get into that too.
I just hate that it got to be public. I just hate that it got to be so public like that because now, everybody makes their perception of someone without really knowing them, and perception is not really reality. Perception is just your reality and what you think. That’s only your reality. That’s not really what’s going on. And a lot of people don’t know about what’s going on with Ja in his personal life.
They only see the fact that he’s on billboards. He’s one of the faces of the NBA. He got Nike deal. They only see all these things but they don’t see what comes with it. They don’t take all that in consideration how his mind or spirit could be after dealing with so much at a young age. You’re asking someone who basically just got out of college to act and be a certain way.
And yes, obviously, this is a professional sport, but at the same time, like me, I came in at 18 so I had to grow up in front of the world basically. And of course I had some fuck-ups and some mess-ups, but I was a kid and you learning through it. And it’s the same thing with Ja. He’s learning and I wish nothing but the best for him.
Brandon Dill / Getty Images
I ain’t going ever talk bad or down him in any situation because of what he got going on. I just know that it’s a lot that he’s dealing with. More money, more problems, and people don’t understand it unless they done had to go through it. The more money, more problems. Everybody want a piece of you and it’s hard. That’s hard to deal with sometimes.
And that’s what I was going to ask. What do you think about everyone being able to have an opinion on this? Whether it’s the media or even worse, social media?
It’s cool. It’s cool. Everybody can have an opinion, that’s okay. But when it comes to doing things that mess up people’s money, mess up people’s livelihood and stuff like that by things you say and then, oh, we should cancel him. We should do this. We should stop this because somebody made a mistake. We got to stop doing that in life, period. Somebody make a mistake, are we going to shun them out? Are we going badmouth them?
Relationship with Lakers
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Recently you mentioned the Kings as a possible team you’ll play for. If you had five teams right now that you would play for and make an impact on that team, who are they?
Okay, you got Miami Heat. You got obviously, the Lakers. The Warriors. The Kings. But the Kings, I would say the Kings got a couple centers so they probably wouldn’t. But the Kings. The Hawks. I’m from Atlanta, go back home with the Hawks.
With the Lakers, would want to return you’d want to do after how things ended last time?
It’s been crazy. It’s been crazy, but it’s just for some reason we just clicked. I don’t know, you could have a little girlfriend or whatever and it’s just, y’all done been together, y’all done broke up. You done tried other girlfriends but it’s just some type of connection y’all got.
That’s how we feel about the Lakers. Man, it’s just something that we got this connection. I don’t know. It got to work. It got to work. But I do love the Lakers, man. We had the championship run there and I wish we would’ve had a chance to keep going because that was the squad right there. We had everything. We had everything.
A lot of people obviously say the bubble was what it was. And some people will say it doesn’t really count…
How can they say that the bubble don’t count if it really happened?
They’ll say it had no fans, no pressure and all that. It’s not the same as playing in an arena or home court advantage…
But it was no home court advantage. That mean it was an even playing field. That mean everybody’s whole mindset was just hooping and basketball. No distractions. That mean it would be harder. Just think about who was in the bubble. It was just the last four teams, right? Denver Nuggets got better. Miami Heat got better and they played each other again in the finals.
Boston got way better. The Lakers, what happened with the Lakers? They damn near, they almost all came back and won the championship. So, it just showed you that cream of the crop always rises to the top no matter what, no matter the age.
Yeah, the part I was even going to say was you guys were 49-14 before the pandemic. People forget about that.
Yeah, we was dominating teams. It was once that day, it was 50 and three when we led coming into the third quarter. So, we 50 and three. That’ll tell you right there, if it’s an 82 game season, that’s already a winning season.
You know what I’m saying? So nah, we had the squad, man. We had everything. We had three great centers. You know what I’m saying? We had a stretch five who could play the four. LeBron could play the five two. We had Couse who was a big guard but played the three four had a good slashing. Caruso shooter. Avery Bradley defense. We had it right. You know what I’m saying?