Dwight Howard and the Most Disgruntled Stars of the Past 20 Years

Jeremy Gottlieb@@jmg2776Contributor IAugust 12, 2012

Dwight Howard and the Most Disgruntled Stars of the Past 20 Years

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    It happens in every major team sport. 

    A player, usually a star, decides he doesn't want to be in a place anymore, so he shoots his way out of town.

    We see it frequently, but it seems to be more prevalent in the NBA than any other league.

    Dwight Howard, who firebombed the entire Orlando Magic organization in hugely depressing, months-long power play, is the most recent case in point. Howard tarnished pretty much everything he touched, including himself, but still got what he wanted when he was traded to the Lakers late Thursday night.

    Of course, Howard wasn't nearly the first player to commit such an act. And it's a safe bet he won't be the last either.

    Here are a handful of NBA stars who have forced their way out over the past two decades.

10. Lamar Odom, Dallas

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    Odom, a former Sixth Man of the Year and current reality TV star, was living the life in L.A.

    He could be the third or fourth wheel, allowing him to disengage from any pressure that came with being the fourth overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. He could be near the beach, be on TV and live the fat life.

    So when the Lakers first tried to deal him last winter in the vetoed Chris Paul trade, then did eventually send him packing to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom was crushed.

    Never mind the fact that the Mavs were at the time the defending champs. That didn't matter at all to Lamar and his fragile mind. His TV show and beach house weren't in Dallas.

    So he sulked, pouted, and whined his way out of town.

    In his defense, Odom's offseason prior to the deal featured some personal tragedy. It's impossible to gauge what kind of impact such issues will have on anyone, even a pro athlete, or for how long.

    But still, his performance and behavior as a Dallas Maverick were both classless and inexcusable. 

    So after just 50 games and a career low 6.6 PPG, the Mavs told Lamar in early April to just go home.

9. Tracy McGrady, Orlando

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    Howard isn't the first star to force his way out of the Magic Kingdom.

    Tracy McGrady did it first.

    McGrady signed as a free agent with the Magic back in 2000. Along with fellow star Grant Hill, he was to lead Orlando to the promised land it hadn't quite reached with Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway.

    But knee injuries held Hill to just 47 games in three years. McGrady was thus the lone wolf, and even though he won a couple of scoring titles, he never led the Magic out of the first round of the playoffs. 

    So, in 200, following a 21-61 season, McGrady butted heads enough with the Magic's front office to get himself dealt to the Houston Rockets.

    Orlando would go on to draft Howard with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft. And McGrady would shine for Houston for a couple of years (and still no advancement beyond the first round of the playoffs) before his body began to break down in 2006-07.

    His force out from Orlando wasn't as bloody and gruesome as some others. But it was bad enough that it can be looked at as one of the most notable of the past 20 years.

8. Deron Williams, Utah

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    The writing was on the wall for Williams to leave the Jazz for a little while.

    He was once the third overall pick in the draft and apparently that made him feel entitled to run off Utah's longtime coach Jerry Sloan, only one of the best and longest tenured coaches in NBA history.

    The Jazz were famous during Sloan's reign for running a controlled offense based around high pick-and-rolls. Williams decided to fix what wasn't broken and wanted to run more. 

    Sloan bristled, Williams remained defiant. They fought. Williams turned down a huge contract extension. Sloan quit.

    It was a shocking turn of events and it placed Williams in the spotlight as another example of today's ego-driven, me first NBA star.

    So two weeks after Sloan's departure, the Jazz quietly traded Williams to New Jersey. Whether Williams really wanted to go once he'd gotten rid of the best coach in Utah franchise history is beside the point. 

    He shot his way out of town and took a Hall of Fame coach with him.

7. Steve Francis, Vancouver

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    Here's a guy who literally never played a minute for a team before blasting his way out.

    Way to go, Stevie Franchise.

    The Grizzlies, then located in the Pacific Northwest, drafted Francis second overall in 1999. Up on stage with David Stern after hearing his name called, Francis looked like someone had just run over his puppy with a bus.

    He declared he wouldn't play for Vancouver almost instantaneously. Among his many reasons for this decision, one that he cited was God's will.

    At any rate, the Grizzlies were worried he'd hold out so a couple of months after the draft, they traded him to Houston in a three-team, 11-player deal. 

    The trade didn't help anyone too much. Vancouver relocated to Memphis not even two years later. And Francis didn't see the postseason once until his final year in Houston (2003-04), which not surprisingly was the same season, he grew disgruntled there too and wound up shipped off to Orlando following the season.

    Hey, a guy's gotta have priorities, right?

6. Ron Artest, Indiana

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    It could certainly be argued that no one shot their way out of town more dramatically, or violently, as Ron Artest did when he was moved by the Pacers.

    In November, 2004, Artest, while lying on the scorer's table at the end of a blowout win over Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills, was hit by a cup thrown by a fan. His response was to go into the stands to take on the fan, inciting the scariest, most violent incident in NBA history.

    The Pacers were title contenders until after that night. They only really showed signs of recovering starting in 2011, when as an eighth-seed, they gave the No. 1-seeded Bulls all they could handle in a first round playoff tilt.

    Artest, of course, was suspended for the remainder of that season. He was a very good player at that point though, so the team actually allowed him to come back for the 2005-06 season.

    And what did he do? He demanded a trade. The Pacers then deactivated him and dealt him to Sacramento in January, 2006.

    There were signs before the brawl that Artest was a lunatic, but that occurrence cinched it. 

5. Stephon Marbury, Minnesota

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    The dream pairing of a young Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury in Minnesota looked great for two seasons. Then Marbury's ego took over and he forced a trade to New Jersey.

    Marbury wanted a bigger role in the team's offense. At least that was the party line. The fact that he was the point guard and handled the ball more than anyone else on the team pretty much rendered that argument moot.

    The more logical reason for the move was again, ego. Marbury wasn't the biggest star on the Wolves and he never would be as long as Garnett was on the team. And he knew it.

    So, instead of continuing to forge his partnership with another budding superstar and subsequently build a potential powerhouse, Marbury blew his way out the door.

    The rest is ugly history. Marbury became an All-Star with the Nets but never made the playoffs and was dealt to Phoenix for Jason Kidd, who took New Jersey to the finals twice.

    He had a little more success with the Suns, but was replaced there by Steve Nash, who won two MVP awards. 

    And when he got to his hometown team, the Knicks, he was complicit in Isiah Thomas's ruining of that franchise and was eventually kicked off the team. He couldn't even get along with Thomas, who was probably his biggest enabler throughout his career.

    Who knows what would have happened if he'd kept his mouth shut and thrived in Minnesota with KG?

    Whatever it may have been, it has to have been better than what Marbury eventually got himself into.

4. Vince Carter, Toronto

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    Carter was a hero in Toronto. Then, when he didn't like a change in upper management prior to the 2004-05 season, he bailed.

    Injuries started to pile up, but there were questions about the veracity of them. He was perceived by Raptors' fans as being a quitter, an impression he didn't do much to quell thanks to some comments he made later in the 2004-05 season, after he'd been traded to New Jersey.

    The minute he got to New Jersey, his numbers and games played went up. The perception that he gave up on the Raptors remained.

    Carter's reputation as a player who plays hard when he wants to has followed him throughout his career, ever since his trade from Toronto. He's accomplished a lot but not enough. He plays as hard as he can, but not all the time. He's a team player, but not always.

    If he'd remained the cornerstone of the Raptors' franchise, he likely wouldn't have to deal with these kinds of perceptions.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver

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    Before there was Dwight Howard, there was Carmelo Anthony

    Carmelo, who had the world in the palm of his hand in Denver, decided it wasn't enough and forced the only team he'd known in his NBA career to trade him to the only place he said he'd play.

    New York.

    Anthony had been to a Western Conference Finals. He was playing for a coach with NBA Finals experience in George Karl. He was offered a massive contract extension.

    It wasn't enough, though. He asked out. Other teams made offers, but the Knicks were the only team he said he'd stay with. He even talked about how good the Knicks looked and how their fans wanted him and how good it felt to be wanted. While he was still a member of the Nuggets.

    And of course for holding a franchise, a city, a fanbase, hostage, what did he get?

    Exactly what he wanted.

    Anthony was traded to the Knicks on Feb. 21, 2011. 

    Since then, the Nuggets have won three more playoff games than the Knicks, who have won one. But hey, who says winning is everything, right?

    In many ways, the Carmelo saga laid the groundwork for the disgraceful Howard situation.

    What a great claim to fame.

2. LeBron James, Cleveland

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    Twenty years from now, even if he wins a couple more titles, will LeBron be best known for "The Decision?"

    It's definitely conceivable.

    Playing for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, James lit up the NBA, took a nothing team to its first finals appearance and took over the league.

    But he left in free agency anyway. And he did it on national TV, slapping the city and franchise that had given him everything he had right in the face on the biggest possible stage.

    Instantly, he went from one of the most beloved and respected players in the league to one of the most hated and disrespected. It wasn't just that he left Cleveland, it was how he did it.

    To LeBron's credit, he didn't turn an entire season into a circus, a la Carmelo and Howard. 

    But he still ultimately handled his situation as poorly and as tone deaf as was possible.

    Some ill will towards him outside of Cleveland has dissipated since he won his first championship with Miami last year. And thanks to the disgraceful Howard mess, he managed to look slightly sympathetic this past season.

    But still, no one will ever forget "The Decision." And it may yet supersede any of his future accomplishments.

1. Dwight Howard, Orlando

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    There's no sense in recapping this entire sordid saga. We don't want to make anyone nauseous.

    The quick version is that Howard disgraced himself, decimated an entire franchise, and got a very good, respected coach fired.

    And yet again, he got what he wanted.

    It will take a lot for this guy to ever move on from his despicable behavior of the last year. He doesn't have a clean slate now that he's been dealt to the Lakers. Not even close.

    He's the most loathed player in the NBA and he deserves to be. No one has ever done more to sink a team and everyone involved with it than Dwight Howard.

    He's part of a new super team now, a team capable of winning more than one championship. And if that happens, maybe fans' perception of him will change.

    It will take a lot though, for anyone with an objective point of view to forget what he did to the Orlando Magic and their fans.

    And the worst part is, since both he wound up getting what he wanted, we probably haven't seen the last of these kinds of acts.

    Thanks a lot, Dwight.

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