Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard
This sampling of updated approval rankings for Dwight Howard comes one year removed from his former coach, Stan Van Gundy, publicly claiming that Howard requested his firing from the Orlando Magic.
Soon after that infamous press conference last April, Van Gundy would be relieved of his coaching duties and Howard dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Following eight seasons with the Magic, the totality of Howard's demands throughout the 2011-12 campaign, eventually leading to his departure from Orlando, were met with national criticism.
His fanbase of loyal Magic supporters were left in Orlando forever, as Howard became tasked with proving his championship-caliber value to Lakers fans while winning back over the national audience.
The 2012-13 season hasn't gone according to plan for Dwight since. He opened the year with a back injury and has struggled—along with his teammates—to qualify for postseason play.
Howard was serenaded by a passionate chorus of boos upon his return to Orlando in March, and he continues to be criticized for his on-court performance and professional demeanor by national pundits.
At the same time, however, there also appears to be a growing approval for Howard among Lakers fans specifically, despite the trying circumstances of a 39-36 record.
His recent engagement with fans through leading blogs like LakersNation.com has helped build this growing support, which is evidenced by the long list of encouraging tweets that have flooded his timeline in response.
Dwight Howard still has much to prove on the basketball court to national pundits
Reggie Miller on Dwight Howard missing free throws: "Work on your game. Enough with the commercials, stop smiling. Work on your game."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 3, 2013
Dwight Howard has averaged 18.2 points and 13 rebounds for his career.
While the 16.7 and 12.7 in his Los Angeles Lakers debut are still better numbers than any other center in the league, the national perception is that Howard can do much more.
That perception—while fair in my opinion—has led to criticisms like this from Hall of Famer Reggie Miller about the way Howard approaches his game and carries himself on the basketball court.
This type of national disapproval will not go away until Howard helps the Lakers—or any other team he might find himself on in the future—collect the ring he claims he's after in his Twitter bio.
Jokes about Howard are still funny, though they're not as frequent as they used to be
What if fun-loving Dwight Howard is actually a great free throw shooter, and to #prank the world he misses on purpose— InsideHoops.com (@InsideHoops) April 3, 2013
Dwight Howard jokes became more frequent than ever following the awkward press conference that he and Van Gundy collaborated on last April.
Howard made himself an easy target and was met with a seemingly constant stream of criticism from all directions throughout the summer months.
As he's helped the Lakers at least move into playoff contention, those jokes have gone away to an extent. But cleverly crafted critiques from nationally respected sites like InsideHoops are still funny when they are properly timed like this one was.
Howard's willingness to engage leading blogs is helping his approval ranking among Lakers fans
Instead of finding some reason to approach Winters' questions with an abruptly dismissive answer, Howard was personable and witty in response.
His message for support to Lakers fans was genuine and resulted in a number of encouraging tweets that soon flooded his timeline.
Lakers fans appear increasingly supportive of what Howard can still do for their franchise
Dwight Howard doesn't post updates to his Twitter account often. In fact, he's tweeted only four times since March 23.
Regardless, his timeline exploded this week with positive words of encouragement from Lakers fans everywhere.
@dwighthoward great game last night you and earl clark did work on the boards— Trilla life￥￥￥ (@IssacMcCloud) April 3, 2013
These tweets are only a select few of the many I read through on Wednesday. While I did read negative comments as well, those comments dwarfed in comparison to messages like this direct at Howard.
@dwighthoward Keep showing the haters why your the best Center in the league! Thankful to have you as a Laker!— Patrick Summey (@PatIsGPS) April 3, 2013
Like anything else in sports, though, those who win have higher approval ratings than those who don't.
Howard has demonstrated enough to give Lakers fans reason to believe he's capable of winning. His ultimate approval rating won't reach its maximum potential, however, until he actually delivers a championship.