Few players in the history of the NBA have had a better redemption story than Dwight Howard has had this season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Hell, few characters in film or television have had a better comeback story than Howard.
When Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets after just one disappointing season in 2013, he became one of the most scrutinized athletes to ever play for the Lakers, if not the most scrutinized. Every time Howard was a visitor at Staples Center after the 2012-13 season, he was met with a chorus of boos — and I mean every time. In fact, had Howard not re-signed with the Lakers last summer, it’s not overly ambitious to say he’d still be getting booed. Lakers fans resented him, and according to Howard, that feeling was mutual.
In a recent interview with Bill Oram of The Athletic, Howard wasn’t afraid to admit that he had a strong disdain for the city of Los Angeles when he left, but he said that all of his ill-will went out of the window when the Lakers approached him with a contract last summer:
“Without any hesitation or anything like that, I was like, ‘Hell yeah, I’d come back and play for the Lakers,’” Howard told The Athletic following a Lakers off day in early January, shortly after his contract was guaranteed for the rest of the season. “Why wouldn’t I? For me, it was kind of like in my heart I was full of forgiveness towards the fans and how the situation ended. I think after that first stint I was super angry. I hated L.A., I hated all that stuff, but I had to let all that go. And it just made my life better.”
Granted, Howard isn’t expected to say anything different now that he plays for the Lakers, but he’s shown that he means it in with the energy and effort he’s played with this season. Anyone that’s gone to see a game at Staples Center this season knows that Howard loves being in the building and interacting with fans.
Whether or not Los Angeles has let Howard back into their hearts depends on who you ask, but Howard’s made his feelings clear, and his love is seemingly unconditional. As long as he keeps playing the way he’s played this season, Lakers fans will continue to show their support, too.