Contrary to what a lot of doubters expected when he was signed, Dwight Howard has proven to be extremely important to the Los Angeles Lakers.
As he continues his redemption tour with LA in the NBA Finals, it is worth remembering one particularly impressive act by Howard that flew under the radar.
Last year, a self-proclaimed gay man accused Howard of being in some sort of relationship with him. The details were tawdry and extremely salacious, and the veracity of the claims was up in the air. A legal battled ensued over the allegations.
Howard easily could have mishandled that situation. He could have slipped up and said something ignorant, or mean, or inconsiderate.
Instead, he handled it with the utmost dignity and grace.
When confronted by the gay accusations, Howard responded calmly.
“I’m not gay,” he said at the time, but that didn’t stop Howard from using the incident as a learning experience.
“I think that liberated me,” he continued.
“Because I saw how a lot of people would feel, whether they’re gay or they’re straight. Whether they have issues. People are afraid to be who they are.
“They’re afraid to just step out and be. Because they’re afraid of what other people might say or think about them. That situation made me realize you’re not like this, but just be you, be free.”
It was a poignant statement that resonated with many.
“It’s a lot of people who are and they have to hide, and there’s people who have mental issues and they have to hide. There’s people who have different problems in life and they have to hide. They have to put on the mask every day, and it’s like, I don’t wanna wear no mask, I just wanna be.”
This is getting very messy very quickly. https://t.co/AvTXsxPL0R
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 30, 2020
Over the years, Howard is a player who has frequently been accused of being immature or difficult to get along with. But it is clear that he has grown a lot, and he deserves credit for that.
“I went through a situation last year that really just set me free,” Howard said.
“It ended up being a situation that was—it went viral. People were talking about it, and it upset me because I didn’t even know who the person was. Why would somebody who I never met, never had any contact with, make up a whole story about me? I saw all the hate, the pure hate, from people that I’ve never met before, just pile up everywhere I went.”
The Lakers are Howard’s eighth team in eight years (or seventh, if you count two separate stints in LA as one). A lot of people thought he would not be able to hang with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The team even structured his contract in a way where there would be an easy out if he misbehaved.
Instead, Howard outperformed all expectations. He became an important piece of a championship puzzle, and the Lakers would not be where they are today if not for him.
Lakers fans were divided. https://t.co/3ed42RJhl2
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 29, 2020
When folks were doubting Howard a few months back, all they had to do was take a closer look at how he handled the gay rumors.
It was clear as day that he had changed.
Howard is a different guy now. And as quick as people were to hate on him and judge him, they should be equally swift in giving him the credit he deserves.