Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard may be in the midst of a disappointing season with the Lakers, but he still has an opportunity to etch his name alongside the great players who have manned his position throughout Lakers' history. But Howard has to improve his offensive post game and free-throw shooting first.
Howard's strength, athleticism and timing arguably gives him an advantage over the likes of Kareem, Chamberlain, O'Neal and Mikan when it comes to defense, but his limited offensive game in the paint is not even comparable to those legends.
In fact, former Lakers' center Andrew Bynum was a much better offensive player in the post than Howard, and he has a couple of rings as well.
The one constant in the Lakers' glorious championship history has been the presence of an elite scorer at the center position, and while Howard does get his points, can you count on him to deliver offensively with the game on the line?
Howard doesn't have Wilt's grace, Kareem's sky-hook, Shaq's footwork or Mikan's wile, and when you put him on the free-throw line Howard becomes an even greater liability.
Sure, Wilt and O'Neal were pretty horrible from the charity stripe as well, but they could also deliver crucial baskets at critical moments on the strength of their skill.
Howard hasn't reached that point, and unless he commits to Los Angeles, he never will.
Declaring his loyalty to the Lakers' history and pursuit of greatness would be the first step in cementing Howard's legacy as a Laker, and adding a few moves to his arsenal would complete the task.
It's almost a shame to think that a player with Howard's physical gifts would have an offensive game that's limited to a few hook shots while crossing the lane.
Imagine what type of player Howard could be if his quickness was punctuated by a consistent spin move or if he could consistently shoot with either hand while turning off of both shoulders?
Where Will Dwight Howard Rank Among the LA Lakers' Greatest Centers?
In Orlando, Howard learned from Patrick Ewing who was a great center in his own right, but he never really fit the mold of a true low post center. And he never won any rings.
To truly embrace what it means to be a legendary Lakers center means you have to win at least one championship, and the chances are slim to none that will happen this season. But that doesn't mean all is lost for Howard or the Lakers.
Howard's admission that Kobe Bryant was only trying to help him through tough criticism, and his willingness to sacrifice numbers in pursuit of a common goal was huge, but learning how to dominate his position offensively will make Howard a complete player.
In order to do that, Howard must catch the ball better in the post, use his dribble to draw defenders and gain positional advantage in the paint.
Those things may seem like a stretch for Howard to master at this point in his career, but to be considered an elite player, you should have elite skill.
Chamberlain, O'Neal and Kareem may have been elite athletes, but even Shaq took the time to learn a few moves to go along with his dominant size, quickness and strength.
However, each of those players also recognized the moment they were in, and they understood the importance of the role they played in the Lakers' success.
It's no coincidence that the three best centers in Lakers' history began their careers somewhere else, but all of them came west to seek their legacy.
Howard definitely has the tools to join that elite fraternity, now he just has to prove he has the desire, passion and motivation to be next in line.