Dwight Howard: All-Time Great Center

Nick GelsoCorrespondent IJune 2, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic celebrates on the court after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)

Their is no doubt that Dwight Howard has arrived among the NBA's elite players ahead of schedule.

Dwight is 23-years-old and in his fifth season in the NBA.

After five seasons, Dwight has career averages of 17.3 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game, 57 percent field-goal percentage, and 60 percent from the foul line.

On Thursday evening, his Orlando Magic will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles, having a long history of Hall of Fame centers, will have the unfamiliar task of putting together a strategy to guard, arguably, the league's best.

Hanging above Staples Center are the jerseys of Los Angeles legends, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

How would Dwight fare against these two titan centers? We will never know.

As I have stated in the past, I do not like to make historical comparisons with current players. It's not fair to the legend or the current player to make any comparisons until the player's entire body of work can be examined.

In this article I have decided to explore the progression and growth of Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, and Howard through their first five seasons.

Wilt Chamberlain entered the NBA in 1959. Through five seasons, Wilt averaged an astonishing 41.6 points per game, 25.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 50.6 percent from the field, and 57.4 percent from the foul line.

In Wilt's first five seasons, he failed to reach the Finals. In his fifth season he failed to reach the playoffs. Chamberlain spent from 1968-1973 roaming the purple and gold paint in Los Angeles.

He won two NBA titles.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar entered the NBA as Lew Alcindor in 1969. Through five seasons, Kareem averaged 30.5 points per game, 15.5 rebounds per game, 5.36 assists, 55 percent field goal percentage, and 69 percent from the foul line.

In his first five seasons, Kareem reached the Finals twice and won the NBA Championship once.

Abdul-Jabbar wore a Lakers jersey from 1975 until retiring in 1989.

He won six NBA titles.

An interesting look at three different generations of big men and how they impacted the game.

Dwight is ahead of schedule creating his legacy. He has the strength and foot-speed of Wilt. He could dominate offensively or defensively at will.

He has the length, durability, and basketball IQ of Kareem.

Seemingly possessing what is great about both legendary big men, Dwight has an energetic approach to the game that neither possessed.

His light approach to the game and captivating smile makes basketball look as fun as it did when Magic Johnson played. That's something the NBA has greatly missed.

Thanks for the Magic, Dwight.