Comparing Dwight Howard to Every Legendary Laker Big Man

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2013

Comparing Dwight Howard to Every Legendary Laker Big Man

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    Dwight Howard remains the tentative missing link between Los Angeles Lakers' big men throughout, to which he can be compared in various aspects.

    Howard comes in line following George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and sure, even Pau Gasol to a certain extent as the next big man to carry the Lakers into the future.

    It's still unknown as to whether or not he's going to stick around past this season (although it seems incredibly likely), which means he's going to have a handful years at least to carve out his legacy in comparison to the rest of Los Angeles' bigs.

    Where Howard has been criticized to no end over the course of the past year, he still remains the best all-around center in the NBA, at least in terms of output.

    Sure, he might have an ugly offensive game at times, and he hasn't fit together well with many of his new teammates, but his defensive game has gotten back on the right track, he's scored when the Lakers need him to and his rebounding never left.

    Howard's bad games are ones in which he has obvious lapses here and there, but he still tends to put together a fine game as far as the box score goes.

    However, that's why watching games actually means something. The personality (I don't quite want to call it an attitude) Howard has seems to be somewhat detrimental to his overall game, even though he generally ends up coming across as a genuinely happy person.

    Looking through the pages of Lakers history, Howard obviously has a ton of work to do, but he's got at least one thing in common with all of the noteworthy centers throughout Lakers history.

Dwight Howard 101

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    When people get to talking about Dwight Howard, it tends to start off on the negative, with lots of "well he's not..." and "but he can't..." or "he doesn't have any..." statements quickly following.

    It's hard to imagine many other players who have come under so much scrutiny while being such a talented and athletically gifted player.

    While Howard doesn't have the range Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had, the complex flurry of post moves Hakeem Olajuwon had or the outright physical dominance Shaquille O'Neal had, he is an amazing player in his own right.

    He is, when playing at his peak, the best defensive center in the NBA, given his combination of talent and skill.

    Howard is rivaled by only Tyson Chandler in his ability to block and alter shots, close out on shooters, chase away rollers on the pick-and-roll while still being aware enough to slump back onto a backdoor cut if it becomes a problem and just flat-out facing up against a defender.

    Dwight can bang with anybody, and his rebounding ability is right up there with the top players in the league, and given the fact that he's constantly covered on offense it might give him the slightest edge.

    Even with his injured shoulder and ailing back, Howard is one of the best players in the league at jumping for a rebound, tipping it up and to himself, getting back up and grabbing the rebound.

    Offensively, Howard relies on his athleticism too much, but when people claim that he has no post moves it proves a bit of ignorance.

    Howard's post game is centered around some incredibly solid moves, ranging from a quick right-handed hybrid of a jump and a push hook. He also has a nice left-handed finger roll-esque scoop-shot to mix it up at times.

    Plus, Howard is incredibly fast and a sound enough ball-handler in short bursts to be incredibly effective in face-up situations.

    Underdeveloped, sure, but he's not completely without post moves.

George Mikan

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    Similarities:Dominance, no-doubt No. 1 and...uh, affinity for accessories.



    Differences:Size (relatively speaking), skill set and just about everything that defines centers beyond being "big."

    George Mikan is a strange guy to try and compare to current-day players, as is the case with any basketball player who played the bulk of his career before 1960. Hell, it's hard to compare players who played this decade and last decade, let along a half-century apart.

    Obviously there's a lot of Mikan to be seen in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his impeccable sky hook and his solid low-post footwork.

    However, it's hard to say how much of his footwork is helped out by the fact that he was 6'10" and everybody else was lucky to crack 6'7". It's just hard to keep a player like that in front of you if he's a solid three, four, five or even six inches taller.

    Mikan dominated the league for a short period of time, earned the nickname "Mr. Basketball" and won himself five championships with the Minneapolis Lakers in the process.

    The two play above everyone else, but for completely different reasons. Mikan was on stilts, whereas Howard has the advantage of incredible athleticism.

    Really, comparing the two is a study in the differences between the league today and in 1954 more so than anything else.

Wilt Chamberlain

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    Similarities: Athleticism, strength, criticism



    Differences: Cult of personality, refinement


    Of the four other Laker big men who compare best to Dwight Howard, Wilt Chamberlain is probably the best parallel.

    While Howard's peak will be nowhere near what Chamberlain was capable of (different eras and whatnot), their advantage over the competition is built upon the fact that they're incredible physical specimens, building upon their game as they go along.

    Chamberlain was beyond the most athletic player of his era; he was one of the most athletic players ever to play the game, and before Howard was sidelined with his back surgery and had to rebuild his body, he was right up in that category with Wilt.

    Along with the athleticism came the incredible strength Wilt used to manhandle everybody in the post, something that Howard has shown as well.

    Coming with the incredible inborn talents of either player is criticism, toward Wilt for not being able to win a championship for much of his career, and toward Howard for not being assertive and turning himself into an unstoppable, dominant force in the paint.

    Whereas Wilt was able to curtail a ton of the criticism because of the incredible cult of personality that surrounded The Big Dipper. People were enthralled with his tremendous size, and the rumors around his sexual exploits made him even more intriguing.

    Howard has worsened the criticism after a wishy-washy attitude for the better part of a year led to his eventual trade from the Orlando Magic.

    Also Chamberlain's offensive game was far more refined than Howard's, although it did take him a bit of time to get there.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Similarities: Soft touch, ability to adjust



    Differences: Bevy of post scoring options, defensive presence


    Seemingly the most different big man throughout Lakers history compared to Dwight Howard, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a few things to share with Howard, but they are two incredibly different players.

    Whereas Howard's game is predicated upon how high he can jump and how much faster and stronger he is than his opponent, Abdul-Jabbar was able to put together a game based on skill that was never so refined in a man his size.

    Towering over everyone else at a staggering 7'2", Kareem had an unstoppable shot (his hook), a pretty good range for a center in the '80s, and footwork in the post that was nearly picture-perfect.

    Defense was where Abdul-Jabbar relied on his body more so than his skill. That's not to say that he was an unskilled defender, but his lanky frame gave him a high center of gravity that was an issue. Kareem's height, along with his incredibly long arms gave opponents nightmares, simply because he was so much bigger.

    Howard's skill is much more evident on the defensive end, where he's a more intelligent player (historically speaking) and capable of keeping opponents at a disadvantage.

    One of the areas that it seems they're unexpectedly similar is their touch around the rim. Howard, because of his size, is always considered to be just another big dude when he's backed down in the post.

    However, he's got incredibly soft hands when catching an entry pass, and even when going up and finishing around the rim. He's not the pillow-handed finisher Kareem was, but his hands are rather silky.

    Otherwise, both players have been forced to adjust to new roles as their careers went along. Howard became a No. 2 option a lot quicker than Kareem and is still adjusting, but he's starting to do a fine job of it.

Shaquille O'Neal

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    Similarities: Double-sided personality, physically amazing.



    Differences: Tip-top dominance, motivation.


    In the past decade, three players have been so physically amazing that they could only be described as "freaks." One is LeBron James, the other two are Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

    Their mixture of height, strength, athleticism (yes, Shaq had it even under all those pounds) and sure-footedness is mind-boggling. It's unfair for a player to have that ridiculous combination of gifts as well as being smart on the basketball court and driven to win a title.

    Both Shaq and Dwight are dominant players, although Shaq was dominant beyond the agreed-upon level of dominance. He was, at his peak, at James' level of dominance exhibited this season, only he was 7'1" and over 300 pounds.

    One of the most interesting aspects of both players off the court is the generally agreed-upon notion that they're fun, entertaining guys, but both had a dark side come up at some point in their career. Shaq's feud with Kobe Bryant was nowhere near as one-sided as we once wanted to believe, and Howard spent almost a year trying to crowbar his way out of Orlando.

    A category in which Howard may eventually vault himself above Shaq in the eyes of the fans is his ability to give a damn throughout an entire season. He's done just that throughout most of his career, but he's suddenly fallen into a "who cares" attitude at times through the past two seasons.

    At the very least Howard doesn't treat the offseason like a four-month vacation, filling each day with as many meals as possible.

    The two modern-day Lakers centers have become incredibly talked about as of late, but only one of the two still have the ability to improve their reputation.