Dwight Howard Has Replaced LeBron James as the League's Most Hated Star

Sam Quinn@@Samquinn23Contributor IIIJuly 1, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 21: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic argues a call during a preseason game against the Miami Heat at Amway Center on December 21, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I've been as critical of LeBron James as anyone, but next to Dwight Howard he looks like a saint. What Howard has done to the Orlando Magic over the last year is as classless and immature as anything any athlete has ever done. He is officially the league's most unlikeable player.

His latest diva act is by far the worst. ESPN is reporting that he plans to take legal action against the Orlando Magic to void his "opt-in" with the team and become a free agent. Why? Because according to him, he was blackmailed.

Really, Dwight? What did the Magic do? Did they kidnap your family? Hold a gun to your head? Because short of that, I'm fairly certain they did not blackmail you.

Don't blame your own immaturity and indecisiveness on the Magic, Dwight. You chose to sign that contract, and now just because you regret it, you feel as if you deserve to be released from it?

That's not how our legal system works. If you want to leave Orlando, that's your call, but at least be a man and play out your contract.

And if you're so certain that you're leaving the Magic, why are you still stringing the organization along? Why did you force the team to fire GM Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy? Is your dislike for them so great that you don't want them employed even if it isn't for your team?

Why is he doing all of this? Because he wants to get to Brooklyn. An organization run so poorly that in the past two years they have:

- Hired Billy King to run their team, the same man who wasted Allen Iverson's career in Philly by overpaying bad players and making terrible personnel decisions.

- Paid a combined $57 million to Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw.

- Traded promising young (and cheap) guard Courtney Lee for not promising, not young and not cheap forward Troy Murphy.

- Gave up the sixth pick in an incredibly deep draft for the right to overpay Gerald Wallace. If they wanted Wallace so badly, why not just sign him as a free agent?

The Prokhorov-King administration has proven that have absolutely no idea how to run a basketball team. Yet, because they're in Brooklyn, Howard wants to ditch the Magic to play for them. 

Despite some bad moves, the Magic actually built a contender around Dwight. They made the NBA Finals in 2009, took the Lakers to six games and won 50 games four seasons in a row.

Maybe he can blame them for not getting a second star, but he can't say they didn't put a competitive team around him. It's not exactly easy for a team to get two stars. By my count only five teams (New York, Miami, Oklahoma City, the Lakers and the Clippers) fit that criteria. 

Going to Brooklyn clearly isn't about winning. It's about building his supposed "brand." At least when LeBron left Cleveland, he did it for a team that gave him a much better chance to win. 

You know what will help your brand, Dwight? Being the best basketball player you can be and winning championships. You're not accomplishing either of those things with the Nets.

You know what will hurt your brand, Dwight? Insulting your fans, acting like a child, making ridiculous blackmail claims and losing in the first round of the playoffs every year.

Dwight Howard has every right to leave Orlando when his contract expires. That doesn't mean he has the right to act like such a diva while he is still signed. 

I rooted against LeBron because I thought it would be bad for the league if a team won the way the Heat did. I will be rooting against Dwight Howard because I genuinely dislike him as a person. I suspect that I won't be alone. The moment he joins the Nets (which seems inevitable if Deron Williams resigns), he will become the league's new biggest villain.