Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
How can you quantify a man so loved and then so despised? Generally, it is exactly how most Magic fans have resigned themselves to the subject of Dwight Howard. He was great, now he’s gone, and there’s not much more to say than that.
Before his final season in Orlando last year, Dwight missed just seven regular season games in seven seasons (2005-2011). He averaged 36 minutes per game in his time in Orlando. He was fouled just short of a billion times. Most importantly, after three years where the Magic failed to reach the postseason, Dwight entered the scene and eventually turned Orlando not only into a playoff team but a championship contender once again. If ever there was a white-collar workhorse, Dwight was it.
For almost a decade, you could not mention Orlando without thinking about Dwight Howard. In a place and time where most assumed the pain of Shaq’s departure could never be forgotten, this is truly monumental. Dwight was a man who not only filled Shaq’s shoes, but in some ways outgrew them.
It’s hard to pick an angle on a guy who brought so much to the table. Points, rebounds, defense, swagger, polarization, gravity, kindness, humor, and scandal. When you add it all up, it’s a bit overwhelming. And to sit and think of a way to sum up Dwight’s tenure succinctly is a bit jarring. But isn’t that the beauty of it? How many players in our generation are this difficult to capture?
My tendency, at any rate, is to start with his defense, or at least his size and athleticism, which led to this intangible impact that Dwight had on the court. Players, though they rarely would admit it, feared the paint when Dwight was in the game.
It was a pilgrimage, of sorts, to guard Dwight as well. Players and teams alike threw out the playbook for the Magic. You just had to start from scratch.
It was this force that caused us to liken Dwight to a celestial object. It was this force that lifted the Magic into the primetime realm. It was this force that sold out games, influenced the construction of the sparkling Amway Center, and lit a fire in Orlando that hadn’t been seen since the days of Penny and Shaq. And it was this force that caused such turmoil when the man left.
So few players in the NBA today pack this punch.
Now glance over Dwight’s career achievements: six-time NBA All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year (NBA record), five-time All-NBA first team selection, four-time All-Defensive first team selection, and MVP runner-up in 2011. The list goes on.
A word like legendary is perhaps too heady, but if you’re from Orlando, it probably could easily escape your mouth. This reason, to me, is the most important reason that Dwight is No. 1 in #ORLrank. He was the best player the Magic ever had, and though we hate that he is gone, we cannot help ourselves from basking in the memories of his dominant tenure in Orlando.
Voter breakdown for Dwight Howard
What is #ORLrank?
Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.
You can also follow along here: @erivera7
How did we rank the players?
Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.
Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.