Dwight Howard never expected to make the NBA’s official 75th Anniversary Team. And in his mind, his absence from the all-time squad had little to do with basketball.
Howard has a theory. His omission from the team released in October — which players, media, coaches and executives voted on and aimed to name the 75 best players since the league’s inception in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America — is more personal than hoops-inspired.
“I can’t go back and do anything right now,” Howard said in a recent conversation with The Athletic. “But at the time, I was kinda bitter to hear that I wasn’t on that list.”
But Howard is on ours. He clocks in at No. 56 on The Athletic’s Top 75.
He calls his exclusion from the league’s list “very disrespectful” and comes armed with reasons why.
“You hear people say, ‘He was only dominant for a couple of years.’ I didn’t know eight years of being an All-Star, being dominant for eight years, was a couple of years,” he said. “I didn’t know winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards in a row, and it should’ve been four, is something that is considered not good.
“There’s guys who don’t have those many accolades. I’m the (youngest) player that’s (reached) 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 all the way up to 9,000 rebounds. That doesn’t add up. So, where is the miscommunication? Where is the lie with my stats?”
There was a point when Howard, the No. 1 selection in the 2004 draft out of high school, was the darling of the NBA, a joyous, generational talent leading the small-market Magic back to relevance. That all turned near the end of his time in Orlando a decade ago. A trade request that turned murky; a ferociously uncomfortable news conference with at-the-time Magic coach Stan Van Gundy; a one-year stint with the Lakers, where he says he initially preferred not to go; a nomadic second act; and multiple serious back surgeries have changed his vibes, and — as for the last one — his otherworldly athleticism.