How Dwight Howard's Free Agency Mess Helps LeBron James
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The summer of 2012 will be historic because of the great sporting events that have, and will, take place.
The world is looking forward to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London at the end of this summer. At the start of the summer, we were witness to one of the greatest individual displays of athleticism as LeBron James finally captured his elusive NBA championship.
Both of these events are connected in a way, because of the passing of a torch.
The Olympic Games is famous for the traditional passing of the torch. Capturing a title now means that LeBron can pass a torch that he has been waiting to relinquish ever since the infamous "Decision."
The torch of being the NBA's top villain.
It's just too hard to hate a champion, no matter how much we would like to. (See: Kobe Bryant)
Now that LeBron has a ring, people that previously rooted against him to win a championship have had the wind taken out of their sails. Of course you have those die-hard haters who have shifted their focus to LeBron never winning it all again...but they're a small crowd. (See: Cleveland, OH)
The thing about hate however, is that it doesn't die. It just migrates.
Someone has to be the focus of all that enmity. And now, that someone must be Dwight Howard.
Who is the least liked player in the NBA because of Free Agency?
Howard came into the league in 2004 as a likable high-school-to-pros draftee. The kid had an infectious smile, and a freakishly athletic frame.
He was never quite Shaquille O'Neal (who was also drafted by Orlando) but he generated the same sort of excitement based on his potential.
That excitement turned out to be well deserved as he went on to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three years in a row, an Olympic gold medal with Team USA during the last Olympic Games, as well as being a six-time All-Star, a dunk contest winner, and leading his Orlando Magic to the Finals in 2009.
Then the free agency monster reared it's ugly head.
In 2010, Howard was witness to the Decision, and subsequent coronation of the Miami Heat's new free agents Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Like the rest of America, he also saw the torment and extreme hate that LeBron encountered at every step of the way as a result of how he handled his free agency. He saw LeBron transformed from, arguably, the face of the league into the whipping boy of national media and fans across the country.
He could've learned from the mistakes of James. But he didn't.
Instead, Howard chose to voice his opinion about his pending free agency. Actually, he voiced several opinions that seem to alter constantly.
He wanted to stay and make everyone happy, but he wanted to leave to. You know the saying about cake, right?
Over the course of just a season-and-a-half, Howard has destroyed all the goodwill that he built during his sparkling career. He has turned the city of Orlando upside down and held them at contractual gunpoint by being a diva in every sense of the word.
Howard's disgruntled funk has led to accusations of him being a guilty party in the recent Stan Van Gundy firing. He has also made trade demands with clauses of which teams he prefers to be sent to. These demands have often been sandwiched between the bizarre comments which recant the fact that he wants out of Orlando.
The prime example of this epic soap opera is Howard's opting into the final year of his contract with the Magic, only to demand a trade a few months later.
Howard's indecision has alienated him from fans in Orlando, as well as the cities he has outright refused to play for. His inner circle's release of alleged blackmail plots by the Magic have strained his relationship with his team's management. His constant backpedaling from every quote and tweet has caused this one revered center to be reviled in the general public's opinion.
Whether he makes it to another team via trade or not, it should come as no surprise to Howard when he gets the LeBron treatment in most NBA cities. (See: the entire 2010-11 season)
Somewhere on a Miami Beach, LeBron is polishing his Finals MVP trophy, and shaking his head.
Good luck passing that torch to someone else, Dwight.
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