Dwight Howard has spent the last year focused mostly on being a superstar. Getting back to the NBA Finals didn't seem nearly as important as posturing to be traded to the team of his choice.
But now that he's been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, something is about to change.
Kobe Bryant is about to refocus the top center in the league on being a playoff competitor again. Winning a championship in the immediate future didn't seem too much on Howard's mind while he was trying to be traded.
Now, however, he's playing with a superstar who is solely focused on winning a title. Year after year, Bryant does everything he can to push his team to win a championship. He shoots into twilight, works on his moves and prods his teammates to improve their games.
Bryant is the man who told Sports Illustrated in 2002, "There are only two real killers in this league," referring to himself and Michael Jordan.
Howard is about to get a dose of Bryant's persistent hunger. He's about to go to work each day with a player who isn't happy that he hasn't won a title in the last two years. Howard is about to become acquainted with the immense depth of Bryant's desire.
Granted, Howard should be more desperate than Bryant to win a title. Bryant has five rings. Howard has none. Still, Bryant has an unparalleled hunger, determined to win one year after year.
Howard is going to like being in the environment that Bryant creates. He'll want to stay.
Many are predicting that the new-look Lakers will play the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. They have the top center in Howard, one of the three most powerful scorers in Bryant and one of the top point guards in Steve Nash. Also, Pau Gasol is hanging on as a star power forward.
With this level of talent and the depth of the bench behind them, the Lakers look like a sure bet to beat the Heat for a title. The drive of Bryant, along with the Lakers' decisive advantage inside, will be the difference.
After that victory, Howard won't consider going anywhere else. He'll take great joy in playing alongside Bryant and working hard for a title every year until Bryant hangs up his jersey.
Afterward, Howard will have learned how rewarding it is to dedicate himself every day to the goal of remaining a champion.
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