Dwight Howard, brand building.
Anytime a marquee player is being courted by every team in the league, speculation is rampant. Throw in a lockout, a news hungry fan base, a cheeky Esquire magazine interview and the name Dwight Howard, and you have a recipe for the tastiest dish that has tongues wagging across all time zones.
The secret ingredient in this dish, is tea leaves. And many are reading the tea leaves from Howard’s Esquire piece, and his twitter comments, assuming that he’s leaving Orlando.
When speaking with Esquire’s Scott Raab, Howard has this to say about Orlando:
I love the people in the city. I've literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what's going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don't want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don't want it to close.
Will Howard leave Orlando? That’s a definite.
A definite maybe.
Dwight Howard wants fame and recognition. He wants strangers, autograph dogs to approach him. Howard even wants:
To represent Christ and also myself. For people to look up to me, and remember me, like Magic Johnson, like Muhammad Ali. Stuff that I dream about — going overseas, having people run after me and want to take pictures, stuff like that. I always dreamed about that. It's cool that I actually see all this stuff starting to happen in front of me.
So Howard wants a larger audience, to create a bigger brand. So that he can continue his altruistic off the court feats...like helping to build a girls school in Africa. Bigger brand. More influence. Better life. Got it.
Howard never addresses the pink elephant in the room, but gives hints that by changing markets to the franchise of his choosing...he can control things that are out of his control. Namely winning championships. And by winning championships, the brand grows. People running after him, looking up to him, stuff like that. That’s the stuff of underwear endorsements. Step aside Mr. Jordan.
As a young man, I too thought I controlled my destiny. Sometimes, God has different plans for us. Sure, Shaq bolted from Howard’s current franchise and he indeed won those coveted championships. However, in the annals of sport, there are volumes of players who attempted the same feat and were reminded that some things remain out of their control.
When LeBron went to Miami, who didn’t think they’d immediately win the NBA Championship? LeBron James may never win the big prize, however he wouldn’t be the first superstar to accomplish that feat (or not accomplish that feat). And he wouldn't be the last.
Chemistry, injuries, management, drafts, trades, schedule, weather, illness, family, personalities, skill, selfishness, arrogance, emotional immaturity, poor decision making and misplaced priorities all go into the championship recipe. It’s called life. And we’re not in control. We can only control how we react to life.
Winning in a small market will be an even greater boost to Howard's appeal as it would be the stuff of folk legends...not to mention the amazing legacy it would be to bring Orlando its first national championship. Ever heard of Kirby Puckett and the amazing over-achieving 1987 World Series Champion Minnesota Twins?
Whether Dwight Howard exerts control over his fate and goes the route of LeBron and Shaq, or emulates baseballs Cliff Lee and places his families happiness front and center...he will definitely win his championship.