Sorry Dwight Howard, but You Will Have to Earn Your Love as an L.A. Laker
After all the hand-wringing, flip-flopping and soul searching that Howard forced us to endure, it's comforting to know that love was the root of all his troubles.
Via Yahoo! Sports, Howard recently revealed that amore was really the fuel behind his roller-coaster offseason of emotions. Love is certainly something that fans of the Los Angeles Lakers can identify with, especially when it comes to the love of greatness.
By any measure sans championships, the Lakers are the greatest franchise in NBA history, and their one-title deficit to the Boston Celtics pales when you consider consistency. Most of the Celtics' championships were won during a period that few people who are living now can recall. But the Lakers' championship legacy has evolved, endured and still resonates in the present.
The Lakers franchise has competed in more than half of every NBA Finals series, and they only have failed to reach the postseason five times.
Five times—and one of those has just happened to come during the reign of Kobe Bryant, one of the best players to ever grace an NBA court.
Bryant once famously tried to force his way out of Los Angeles, but general manager Mitch Kupchak refused to bow to Bryant's demands, and the Lakers faithful eventually forgave him for it.
But that's only because Bryant's track record was proven.
It's easy to forgive Bryant's insolence when you consider the role he played in the Lakers' three-peat from 2000-02, and that sentiment is backed up by Bryant's three Finals appearances and two rings since that time.
Bryant may be hated by legions of NBA fans, but he always will be loved by those who bleed purple and gold, because he's earned it. Sure, he flirted with trading the most recognizable team brand in professional basketball for Michael Jordan's NBA alma mater, but reason eventually won out.
Bryant's legacy began in Los Angeles, and it will end in Los Angeles—and while Howard's time in Hollywood will not be the alpha of his career, it certainly can be the omega.
Until this point, Howard has been trying to find the true north on his career compass, and if he has any knowledge and respect for NBA history, Howard should realize that he finally has reached a pivotal crossroads in his life as a basketball player.
Maybe Howard wants to be a Laker and maybe he doesn't, but at any rate, he has become the next great center in a long line of talented players who have manned the interior for the Lakers. From this point forward, his career will be judged on how he performs in this moment.
And when it comes to the Lakers, performance is measured in championships.
Every great Lakers center, from Chamberlain to Abdul-Jabbar to O'Neal, has managed to win at least one NBA title, and you could argue that none of those players had the type of roster that Howard has at his disposal.
Magic Johnson's Showtime teams won five titles, but even they didn't have four potential Hall of Famers in the starting lineup.
Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Bryant already have secured their places in history, and Howard probably did with his time in Orlando. However, there are chapters yet to be written.
It was easy to garner love in Orlando, especially when you were a part of the franchise's second NBA Finals appearance in their brief existence. O'Neal can claim the title of being the first center ever to lead the Magic to the Finals, but his legacy was defined by his titles with the Lakers.
And, Mr. Howard, so can yours. Leading the Magic to the Finals is great, but remember that you lost to Kobe and the Lakers.
Mr. Howard, you were happy to qualify for the 2009 NBA Finals, but the Lakers expect to be there every season.
This is the legacy Howard inherits, and while he has the talent and ability to walk in the footsteps of greatness, it remains to be seen if he truly comprehends the task at hand.
Much of Howard's introductory interview was spent talking about how much fun he was looking forward to having as well as impersonations of Bryant and L.A. citizens. Howard was amusing for sure, but Bryant has spoiled the Staples crowd by merging humorous quips with excellence on the basketball court.
That's one of the reasons we love him.
Howard has his act down pat with the media, and once we see what he has down on the court, maybe he can make us love him, too.
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