“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be Careful.”
Reading the above quote, I can visualize Dwight Howard as the humble 18-year-old with braces. I can see that same now-famous kid having fun and amazing everyone at the Slam Dunk Contest in 2008. And finally and unfortunately, I’m too familiar with the demands, conceit and annoyance that represent Dwight Howard today.
What occurred that transformed the wide-smiling Superman to a deceptive egomaniac?
Not only has Howard unsuccessfully and then successfully gotten his coach fired, demanded a trade, accused his employer of blackmail, and then demanded a trade again, but he has denied doing all of it.
Despite the deception, conceit, recent back surgery and demise of his public image, multiple NBA teams are eager to trade several proven players and several first round draft picks in an effort to get Howard. This is how ideologically NBA teams view a true center.
It seems Howard knows how coveted his size is and it has affected his attitude, his relationship with the Magic and maybe even his approach to the game.
There was the sighting of Howard and teammates out until 3 a.m. the night before a loss to the Knicks in which Howard scored 12 points with five rebounds.
One week after that, there was drama before another Knicks-Magic game. Coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters that he learned from top management that Howard had asked for him to be fired, only for Howard to enter the room and deny the action. That night Howard contributed eight points and eight rebounds in the fifth consecutive loss for the Magic.
I recognize that Howard is a dynamic player and the best center in the NBA—when he chooses to be.
His career 57.7 percent field goal percentage, 13 rebounds and 18.4 points per game shows that he can make nearly any team a title contender with his services. But I’m not questioning his basketball abilities, I’m questioning his attitude, ego and ability to recognize that he has a boss.
It’s a pretty standard rule of adulthood that you do not bad-mouth your former employer to your new employer or a prospective employer. It signifies a me-first attitude, an inability to cooperate with others and is a strong indication that the individual will bad-mouth his new organization in the future.
It should go without saying that publicly bad-mouthing your current employer will lead to termination in nearly any professional field. Today, a young professional can be fired over a single picture on Facebook or foolish tweet, let alone any public statement denigrating the guys who pay your $17 million annual salary.
Howard has established himself as the best rebounder and shot-blocker in the NBA. I suppose the rules can be a little different for a guy who makes such a major difference on a basketball court. But for NBA owners and GMs, individuals who have reached the peak of business success, how much control and how many carefully scouted players are they willing to sacrifice for a 26-year-old coming off back surgery, regardless of the stats and awards?
Howard was the darling of the NBA for years and he still has one of the most infectious smiles in sports. But through his eight years as a professional athlete, his ego has become inflated to the point where he talks too much and doesn’t think his words have consequences.
Also, his once-visible positivity has transformed into negative thoughts and petty actions towards people he feels have slighted him in some way.
As the Lakers become the new front-runner for Howard, they will need to consider the assets they would surrender (Bynum, draft picks and more) and the impact Howard would make on their organization.
Howard can absolutely regain his form as the fun-loving, under-the-basket dominator we know he can be, but he needs to start following advice from superiors like coaches, GMs, and veteran teammates.
He should also remember Coach Wooden’s advice: Be humble and be grateful. The last part of Wooden’s quote is for both Howard and the Lakers: Be careful.