Back in July of 2010, it seemed like no one could possibly dethrone LeBron James as America’s most hated basketball player.
Not only did he spurn Cleveland on national television for everyone to see, but he also helped host a Miami Heat welcome party celebrating the union of himself, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The trio was celebrating victory before ever stepping on the court together.
James’ struggles in the 2011 NBA Finals and the subsequent Miami loss only fueled the fire for all the “LeBron haters.”
But fast forward to 2012, and Dwight Howard has done the impossible.
His constant waffling back-and-forth between wanting to stay with the Orlando Magic and his requests to be traded and for his head coach Stan Van Gundy to be fired have left quite the sour taste in fans’ mouths.
One day, he wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The next day, he decides he wants to stay in Orlando. The next, he wants Van Gundy gone. Then he opts in for one more year with the Magic.
At least James made a decision and stuck with it instead of dragging out a soap opera for an entire season.
Howard was clearly trying to be liked by as many people as possible. He admitted so in a recent interview with ESPN’s Ric Bucher when he said, "I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy.”
A lot of fans are annoyed at Howard’s indecision, and rightfully so.
But annoyance is exactly where the feelings should stop.
Anyone who calls Howard a jerk or claims to hate him is crossing the line.
All any standard fan knows about Howard is that he made some really big mistakes.
None of them know his day-to-day personality, his true off-court behavior or anything else that makes up Dwight Howard the person.
In a time when anything and everything deemed controversial is blown up way out of proportion, fans are instantly informed anytime any star athlete does something wrong.
When James held his special and named it “The Decision,” the national media blew up, saying his act was made out of complete cockiness. An aspect of the special far less covered was how he used it to raise millions of dollars for the Boys and Girls Club of America.
We are immediately informed anytime Howard or any other NBA star makes a public relations blunder, but never when they help out in the community. All we see are those short “NBA Cares” commercials that only run during games.
Imagine having to live in a world like that. If every mistake you made was highlighted for millions to see, but your good deeds were swept under the rug, wouldn’t you feel like you were being represented in an unfair way?
Or think about some of your closest friends. Say you didn’t know them, and were only given a sheet of paper listing their biggest jerk moments. By only reading those lowlights, you would consider just about every person an idiot. But since they’re your friends, you know them well, and you know there’s much more to them.
Fans don’t know Dwight Howard. They know how he plays basketball, what he says to the media and every single one of his mistakes.
My guess would be that if you somehow spent even just one day with him to get to know Dwight Howard the person, your opinion of him would change.
So don’t call Dwight Howard, or any athlete for that matter, a jerk. Annoyed by his actions? Sure. Angry that he didn’t learn from his first few mistakes? Fine. But never judge someone until you really to know them as a person.