For Better or Worse, Dwight Howard Is the Wilt Chamberlain of Our Generation

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench during the first half against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on December 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

There's a little more to this than just a couple of dominant big guys who can't make free throws.

If you had to describe Dwight Howard, where would you start?

How about with the idea that he looks like he was designed on a computer and generated in a lab? I mean the guy doesn't have a physical flaw—just seven feet of chiseled muscle. Statues in Italy have less definition.

We have seen athletic seven-footers before him, like Shaquille O'Neal, but none with this type of fluidity.

Shaq was power and destruction. He went through people. Howard is grace and agility. He glides over them.

Back in the 1960s, Wilt wasn't the only 7'1'' center. But he was the only one skilled and coordinated enough to do some of the things he did—like score 100 points in a game or average 50 for a season.

He was physically and fundamentally revolutionary.

These two big men share many qualities, both as athletes and individuals. But they've attempted to achieve similar satisfaction through different avenues of expression.

The way Wilt chased women, Dwight chases Twitter followers.

Dwight wants to be the prom king. The mayor, elected by the people. The guy whose video is being shared around the office and talked about in gym class.

Searching desperately in 2011 for a way to start fresh in a new city without burning any bridges with the people of Orlando, Howard struggled with his desire to be everyone's favorite player.

While trying to make friends, he made enemies.

Wilt was known to possess a similar thought process. He was criticized for being selfish and at times referred to as a "loser."

In a Sports Illustrated piece written in 1986, legendary sports writer Frank Deford touched on Wilt's perceived insecurities.

Deford spoke with Al Attles, a friend and former teammate of Wilt's, who said, "I don't think Wilt would ever admit this, but he would try to do things just to get acceptance from other people."

Sounds kind of familiar.

A particular quality about Dwight that irks the public is his lack of competitive toughness.

Howard is seen laughing on the floor and goofing during intros. He does impressions, pranks and dunk contests. He's the court jester when most want him to be the court general.

It's a personality flaw that goes hand in hand with overachieving in sports.

Despite Wilt's unmatchable physical tools, all the scoring accolades and the record-breaking performances, he only came away with two championships, which isn't overwhelming when you consider his individual dominance and the time period he was playing in.

Wilt lost seven out of eight playoff series to Bill Russell. A guy who averaged 50 a game once, and the only to average 30 points and 20 rebounds, was losing. There's just something wrong with that picture—the same way there's something wrong with the Lakers struggling and Orlando never making it over the hump.

For better or for worse, Dwight Howard might be this generation's version of Wilt Chamberlain, not in terms of production, but as competitors—as two individuals capable of conquering the game physically, but not mentally.

I'm not going to pretend like I was sitting courtside for Wilt's games or sharing women with him in hotels. And I'm not bringing him down to Dwight's level, who remains ringless and has experienced his fair share of turbulence as a player.

But there is something similar about two guys with such unique physical capabilities and provocative approaches to the game.

Dwight will never be Wilt Chamberlain. But if there was ever a complete comparison in terms of athlete and character, he's the pick for our generation.