It's nearly a yearly occurrence in today's NBA. Somebody does something to piss of their hometown fans (or soon to be former hometown fans), the rest of the league sympathizes and they instantly become persona non grata in the NBA.
Fans everywhere will become incredibly disenchanted with the player in question and their public image is shot to hell.
In case anyone out there was still questioning whether or not Dwight Howard was going to fit that bill this season, Dwight Howard's return to Orlando probably won't be accompanied by horns blowing and flowers being tossed. Instead he'll see the roughest homecoming since LeBron James came back to Cleveland for the first time.
One thing that Howard can take advantage of now that he's moved to L.A. and shares a locker room with the rest of the Lakers is that he's got a teammate who was once in the same position that he's in.
Kobe Bryant's unpopularity reached a nadir after he was accused of sexual assault back in 2003, leading to a months-long trial that dragged through the 2003-04 season forcing Kobe to go back and forth between Colorado and California during the basketball season.
Thankfully for Howard, his predicament is nowhere near as bad as Kobe's. He's facing a public shunning whereas Kobe was facing serious jail time, which would have potentially ended his career far short of what was expected.
Even though the cases are completely different, what Kobe did following the case is going to be what Howard needs to do following his unceremonious departure from Orlando.
Kobe made some drastic changes, from changing his number to almost completely closing himself off from the media. Basically what he did was ignore most outside influences and just played basketball. And you know what? That's probably the best way to go about repairing a damaged image.
Take a look at how LeBron's image started to be repaired. It took his first full season with Miami before he realized that the best thing to do was to just forget everything that happened and move on. He tried to address "The Decision" lightly for nearly a year, culminating with the press conference following the loss in the 2011 NBA Finals in which he told his "haters" to buzz off.
While it would make sense that the best thing to do would be to acknowledge the wrong you've done, the best thing to do would be to talk about it a few times initially and then move on.
Aside from following the Kobe System, just the presence of Kobe himself should be a bit of a calming effect.
When you look around the league, there are few players as comfortable on the big stage as Kobe Bryant. He may not always get the job done, but he's never afraid to take the final shot even if he's got 20,000 rabid fans yelling at him.
That's what he's going to help Howard with the most. Not only is this an important part of Howard accepting the boos long enough so they end up turning into cheers, but it's important for Howard to become the next leader of the Lakers.
Howard has struggled on the big stage before, shooting just 49 percent during his one trip to the Finals. You can't say he was terrible during that series, but he wasn't good enough to take control of the Magic and keep them in the series. That's what the confidence of Kobe Bryant can teach a guy.
Part of preforming well is thinking that you can preform well. Kobe's presence and a new kind of attitude should help Howard turn into a more confident basketball player, which should help him turn into a more confident person in general.
It's going to be tough at times, but if he sticks close to Kobe then he'll be able to reboot his image a quickly as possible.
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