Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dwight Howard's Magical Season

Dwight Howard is a very impressive young man. Friendly, articulate, and humble, he has none of the chest-thumping self-promotion that comes with LeBron James and none of the street-cred machismo that defines Carmelo Anthony. He spends nights on the road reading his bible and playing video games rather than joining his teammates in the nightclubs. He’s funny, innocent, and completely focused on becoming the best basketball player he can be. Oh, and he’s currently the best center in the NBA and a legitimate MVP candidate years before he even hits his prime.

Howard is having a great year - 22.1 PPG, 15.2 RPG, and 2.5 BPG. He’s been physically overpowering since he came into the league straight out of high school in 2004, but he was often lost on defense and fundamentally deficient on offense. He got by on his size and athleticism the last few years, but that’s all changed now. This season he’s using his muscular 6’11 frame to get the position he needs for his suddenly reliable hook shot. He’s learned to fight for excellent rebounding space without fouling in the process. He’s always been a good shot-blocker, but now he’s one of the few players that can block shots back into play.

Yao Ming may be considered to be the top center in the league by many, but Howard is quickly changing that perception. His statistics are almost identical to Ming’s, except that Howard averages five more rebounds a game despite standing six inches shorter. And, he’s younger, quicker, stronger, and more aggressive than the giant Chinese import.

The player that Howard most aspires to be, in fact, is Tim Duncan, who would be the best center in the NBA if he wouldn’t always insist he’s not a center. As a fan of both of these players I sincerely hope that Howard follows in Duncan’s footsteps. He’s already a solid citizen like the soft-spoken Duncan, but what he could learn most from the former league MVP is that intelligence often trumps brute strength on the court. It extends careers, and it wins championships. Fortunately for Howard, he’s as intelligent as he is big.

This season Howard is using all of his talents to dominate. He’s exactly what this league (which has had an image problem for too long) needs, a likeable character with a world of talent to join the other young stars that are much harder to root for.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:55 PM

    great achievement of the player.

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