It’s time for Orlando Magic fans to talk about Dwight Howard’s legacy

Apr 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) during the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) during the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Dwight Howard’s career is not over yet.

He is still playing in Taiwan where some of his more immature antics still get headlines — he is actively recruiting anyone that will come to join his league in Taiwan where he puts up insane stat lines against less-than-stellar competition while still sometimes getting himself into international geopolitical hot water.

But, Howard’s career might as well be trending toward its conclusion.

His NBA days appear to be behind him as the league values more versatile centers than the traditional back-to-the-basket types. Injuries have slowed him down considerably. And his playing time just got squeezed more and more.

Howard has taken more to try to defend his legacy, often in unartful ways because. . . it’s Dwight Howard, as his career draws to a close. A Hall of Fame spot is almost assured although a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection may not be so guaranteed — Basketball-Reference puts his Hall of Fame probability at 99.7 percent, for what that is worth.

Dwight Howard is increasingly talking about his place in history as his career draws to a close. There is a lot to celebrate. It’s time for Orlando Magic fans to do so.

Regardless of how anyone feels about Howard, we are nearing the end of his career. His time playing professional basketball is nearly over. The five-year clock to his entry to the Hall of Fame is almost ready to begin.

It is time to start seriously talking about his legacy. And as Orlando Magic fans, we are the keeper and advocates of his legacy in a very meaningful way. It is time for Magic fans to celebrate Howard’s legacy and be his biggest advocates.

That will not be easy. There are still a lot of hard feelings between Magic fans and their former superstar center. But the end of his career is coming into focus. And Howard is still part of the Magic’s legacy.

They are intertwined as Howard tries to ensure history does not forget him. Orlando is, of course, the place where Howard will always have a home. Even if he does not quite realize that yet.

The latest salvo in his attempts to keep himself front and center in the discussion of the best players in NBA history came on FanDuel’s Run It Back Podcast with Orlando-native Chandler Parsons where Parsons asked Dwight Howard how he would matchup with Nikola Jokic:

It is hard to say how serious Howard is about this. It is an interesting what-if matchup of these two centers in their primes.

This was recorded before Jokic’s brilliant Game 1 performance where he both looked at ease setting others up and then put the nail in the coffin in the fourth quarter for the Nuggets’ Game 1 win.

While there is a healthy debate about just how fun a matchup between the defensive powerhouse that was Howard in his Magic prime against the offensive brilliance of Jokic today, most of the responses seemed to echo Parsons’ promotion of this clip from his podcast.

People are starting to forget just how good Howard was in his Orlando prime.

Magic fans do not necessarily need the reminder. They just are not shouting about it as vociferously because of how strained the relationship has become.

But Howard was a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year; an eight-time All-NBA center, including four first-team appearances; an eight-time All-Star, including several runs as the league’s leading vote-getter.

He led the upstart Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals with their starting point guard injured for that postseason run, upending the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the process.

In his peak years in Orlando from 2007-12, he averaged 20.0 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocks per game. He accumulated 47.0 defensive win shares and posted a +1.4 defensive box plus-minus in his eight years with the Magic.

He was the most dominant defensive force in the league at that time, turning otherwise poor defenders into one of the best defensive units in the league. He was one of the few players who could successfully challenge players like LeBron James and Derrick Rose at the rim, two MVP players considered the best drivers of his era.

A lot of this has gotten lost in the dustbin of history. His lone Finals appearance as a star player has kept his legacy from being front and center. That Finals historically has meant more as Kobe Bryant’s first title without Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson’s 10th title rather than a preview of the league’s evolution to spread-out offenses and pick-and-roll heavy schemes.

Howard never even got his credit during the time he dominated.

The old guard of the league consistently criticized him for having an unrefined postgame in an era when the postgame was being pushed to the wayside as too inefficient. He still did his scoring.

They further criticized him for his sunny demeanor and his sensitivity to those slights — something that certainly still peaks through as he struggles to claim his spot among his contemporaries.

His antics since leaving have not helped him. Whether that was the messy way he left Orlando or his sojourn through the league when he could not quite let go of the idea that he was the star of his team and a potential low-post force.

If Howard really cared about his legacy and sought out defenders, he would do the work to make amends in Orlando. It is still not clear whether Magic fans would accept him if he made a return to be recognized for the upcoming 35th anniversary season.

That is certainly a sad state of affairs even more than 10 years after his initial departure. And something that will need to be corrected so the team can properly honor one of its best players and fully embrace its history and one of its best teams.

For sure, time and the advent of a new star in Paolo Banchero have helped ease the anger of Dwight Howard’s departure. Just as Dwight Howard’s arrival eased relations with Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway (both were welcomed back for the team’s 25th anniversary season).

But ultimately, Magic fans are the ones who will keep and preserve Howard’s legacy. And as his career comes to a close, Magic fans will be his ultimate defenders and revelers in his accomplishments.

Howard was already a bit miffed at missing the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team (and he had a good argument there in some respects). He is certainly thinking about his place in NBA history as his time playing comes to a close.

And there are fans now who are removed enough to recognize how good he was. Howard has plenty to shout about and be proud of in his career. His moment was an especially bright one. He was one of the best players of his era.

Will history remember that? That is what Howard seems to be thinking about more than anything else.

Next. Paolo Banchero wins NBA Rookie of the Year. dark

Soon that is all that we will have of Howard. And the question is whether it will be something that gets properly celebrated or ignored completely.

That might be up wholly to Magic fans.