When the Lakers first acquired Dwight Howard in 2012, the hope was that he’d start a dynasty in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant, who, despite entering his mid-30s, had finished the 2011-12 regular season second in the league in scoring with 27.9 points per game.
Instead, the two superstars bumped heads all season long and, as a result, Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets in free agency. Before all that happened, though, Howard said he, too, had aspirations of spending more than a single season in Los Angeles.
During a recent interview on “In Depth with Graham Bensigner,” Howard said that he had planned on taking the torch from Bryant once he called it a career:
Why do you think when you first came to the Lakers, people were telling you, like, “You need to know Kobe still wants to be the star”?
“I don’t know. I guess they felt like I wanted to come and do whatever to the team but for me, I just wanted to learn from all the guys who came before me. I was looking forward to playing with Kobe, playing with Pau, playing with Antawn Jaminson, Steve Nash because I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I can from those guys because they played in the league longer than me.
“And I knew that Kobe was one of those players that’s about to transition out of the NBA, so it’s like, ‘Man, I can learn a lot from this guy.’ And I want to be that guy. When he leaves, I want him to be able to say, ‘Dwight, here. Take over.’ That’s all I wanted. I just wanted to learn and soak up as much knowledge as possible, that way when it’s my time, I can give that knowledge to somebody else.”
The only problem is that Howard wanted his time to come sooner rather than later.
According to a report by Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN in 2013, Howard was reluctant to re-sign with the Lakers because he didn’t know much longer Bryant would be with the team. At the time, Bryant was on a $30.4 million expiring contract.
In fact, Howard and his camp were so ready for the Bryant era in Los Angeles to be over that they reportedly asked Lakers management if they’d consider using the league’s amnesty provision on Bryant, who had fully-ruptured his Achilles tendon earlier that year.
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers balked at Howard’s request, and he walked.
Now, is it fair to criticize Howard for wanting to be the star of his own team at 27 years old? Maybe not, but was it fair of Howard to ask the Lakers to cut ties with Bryant, a fan-favorite who had been with the team since 1996? Definitely not.
Luckily, this time around, Howard won’t be in a position to give the Lakers that ultimatum — not even close. Still, Howard may get his wish of winning a championship in Los Angeles, even if it’s not on the terms he originally envisioned.