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Howard, who plays center, spent his high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. He chose to forgo college, entered the 2004 NBA draft, and was selected first overall by the Orlando Magic. An eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA Team honoree, five-time All-Defensive Team member, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard set numerous franchise and league records during his time with the Magic. In 2009, he led the team to the NBA Finals.
In 2012, after eight seasons with Orlando, Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Following a one-year stint with the Lakers, he played for the Houston Rockets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Washington Wizards.
Howard was born in Atlanta, to Dwight Sr. and Sheryl Howard, and into a family with strong athletic connections. His father is a Georgia State Trooper and serves as Athletic Director of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, a private academy with one of the best high school basketball programs in the country, while his mother played on the inaugural women's basketball team at Morris Brown College. Howard's mother had seven miscarriages before he was born. A devout Christian since his youth, Howard became serious about basketball around the age of nine. Despite his large frame, Howard was quick and versatile enough to play the guard position. He elected to attend Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy for high school, and in his four years he played mostly as power forward, averaging 16.6 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.3 blocks per game in 129 appearances. As a senior, Howard led his team to a 31–2 record and the 2004 state title, while averaging 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8.1 blocks and 3.5 assists per game. That same year, Howard was widely recognized as the best American high school basketball player, and he was awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award, the Morgan Wootten High School Player of the Year Award, Gatorade National Player of the Year and the McDonald's National High School Player of the Year honor. He was also co-MVP (with J. R. Smith) of the McDonald's All-American Game that year. On January 31, 2012, Howard was honored as one of the 35 greatest McDonald's All-Americans.
Orlando Magic (2004–2012)
Early years (2004–2008)
Following his high school successes, Howard chose to forego college and declared for the 2004 NBA draft—a decision partly inspired by his idol Kevin Garnett who had done the same in 1995—where the Orlando Magic selected him first overall over UConn junior Emeka Okafor. He took the number 12 for his jersey, in part because it was the reverse of Garnett's 21 when he played for Minnesota. Howard joined a depleted Magic squad that had finished with only 21 victories the previous season; further, the club had just lost perennial NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. Howard, however, made an immediate impact. He finished his rookie season with an average of 12 points and 10 rebounds, setting several NBA records in the process. He became the youngest player in NBA history to average a double double in the regular season. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 10 rebounds in a season and youngest NBA player ever to record at least 20 rebounds in a game. Howard's importance to the Magic was highlighted when he became the first player in NBA history directly out of high school to start all 82 games during his rookie season. For his efforts, he was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Rookie Challenge, and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team. He also finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Howard reported to camp for his second NBA season having added 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season. Orlando coach Brian Hill—responsible for grooming former Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal—decided that Howard should be converted into a full-fledged center. Hill identified two areas where Howard needed to improve: his post-up game and his defense. He exerted extra pressure on Howard, saying that the Magic would need him to emerge as a force in the middle before the team had a chance at the playoffs. On November 15, 2005, in a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard recorded 21 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the youngest player ever to score 20 or more points and gather 20 or more rebounds in the same game. He was selected to play on the Sophomore Team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge during the All-Star break. Overall, he averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and double-doubles and sixth in field goal percentage. Despite Howard's improvement, the Magic finished the season with a 36–46 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season since Howard's arrival.
In the 2006–07 season (and for the third consecutive season), Howard played in all 82 regular-season games. On February 1, 2007, he received his first NBA All-Star selection as a reserve on the Eastern Conference squad for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. On February 9, he made a game-winning alley-oop off an inbound pass at the buzzer against the San Antonio Spurs. Howard set a new career high with 35 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 14. Under his leadership, the Magic qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. There, the Magic were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the first round. For the season, Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, finishing first in the NBA in total rebounds, second in field goal percentage, and ninth in blocks. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006–07 campaign.
Howard continued posting impressive numbers in the 2007–08 season and helped the Magic have their best season to date. Howard was named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. On February 16, 2008, he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest by receiving 78% of the fan's votes via text messaging or online voting; in that contest, he performed a series of innovative dunks said to have rejuvenated the contest, including donning a Superman cape for one of the dunks. Howard led the Magic to their first division title in 12 years and to the third seed for the 2008 NBA Playoffs. In their first round match-up against the Toronto Raptors, Howard's dominance (three 20-point/20-rebound games) helped Orlando to prevail in five games. Howard's series total of 91 rebounds was also greater than the total rebounds collected by the entire Toronto frontcourt. In the second round against the Pistons, the Magic lost in five games. For the season, Howard was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time, and was also named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
Dominance and NBA Finals appearance (2008–2011)
The 2008–09 season began well for Howard. Ten games into the season, the center was leading the league in blocks per game (4.2). In December, Howard injured his left knee, which caused him to miss a game due to injury for the first time in his NBA career; previously, he had played in 351 consecutive games. He garnered a record 3.1 million votes to earn the starting berth on the Eastern Conference team for the 2009 NBA All-Star Game. Howard led Orlando to its second straight Southeast Division title and to the third seed for the 2009 NBA Playoffs; the team finished the season with a 59–23 record. In the first round of the playoffs against the 76ers, Howard recorded 24 points and 24 rebounds in Game 5 to give Orlando a 3–2 lead before the Magic closed out the series in six games. In the second round against the Boston Celtics, after the Magic blew a lead in Game 5 to fall behind 3–2 in the series, Howard publicly stated that he should have been given the ball more and questioned coach Stan Van Gundy's tactics. The Magic went on to defeat Boston to win the series and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. There they, defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 4–2. Howard had a playoff career-high 40 points to go with his 14 rebounds in the deciding Game 6, leading Orlando to the NBA Finals for the first time in 14 years. In the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers took the first two home games, before a home win by the Magic brought the deficit to 2–1. In Game 4, despite Howard putting up 21 rebounds and a Finals record of 9 blocks in a game, the Magic lost in overtime. The Lakers went on to clinch the series with a win in Game 5. For the season, Howard became the youngest player ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, and to the All-NBA First Team.
In the 2009–10 season, the Magic got off to a strong start, winning 17 of their first 21 games and setting a franchise record. On January 21, 2010, Howard was named as the starting center for the East in the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. The Magic completed the regular season with 59 wins and their third consecutive division title. The Magic's playoff run resulted another Eastern Conference Finals appearance, where they lost in six games to the Celtics. Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second straight year. He became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season twice—and for two years in a row.
In the 2010–11 season, Howard posted career highs in points and field goal percentage. He became the first player in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year honors for three consecutive seasons. Howard led the league in double-doubles and also averaged 14.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and a career-high 1.3 steals this season. He led the Magic to 52 wins, as they finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They went on to lose to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of 2011 NBA Playoffs. He had a playoff career-high 46 points and 19 rebounds in Orlando's 103–93 loss to Atlanta in Game 1. Howard led the NBA in technical fouls with 18 in the regular season, and received one-game suspensions after his 16th and 18th technicals.
Final season in Orlando (2011–2012)
Due to a lockout, the 2011–12 regular season was shortened to 66 games. Not long after the lockout ended, Howard, who was eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, demanded a trade to the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks. Howard stated that although his preference was to remain in Orlando, he did not feel the Magic organization was doing enough to build a championship contender. He would later meet with Magic officials and agree to back off his trade demands, but stated that he also felt the team needed to make changes to the roster if they wanted to contend for a championship.
On January 12, 2012, Howard attempted an NBA regular season record 39 free throws against the Golden State Warriors. Howard entered the game making 42 percent of his free throws for the season and just below 60 percent for his career. The Warriors hacked Howard intentionally throughout the game, and he broke Wilt Chamberlain's regular-season record of 34 set in 1962. Howard made 21 of the 39 attempts, finishing with 45 points and 23 rebounds in the Magic's 117–109 victory. On January 24, 2012, Howard became the Magic's all-time scoring leader.
On March 15, 2012, on the day of the trading deadline for the 2011–12 NBA season, Howard waived his right to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and committed to stay with the Magic through the 2012–13 season. He had previously asked to be traded to the New Jersey Nets. Had he not signed the amendment, the Magic were prepared to trade him to avoid losing him as a free agent. On April 5, Van Gundy said that he had been informed by management that Howard wanted him fired. During the interview, the center walked up and hugged his coach, unaware that Van Gundy had confirmed a report that Howard denied. Van Gundy was let go after the season.
On April 19, 2012, Howard's agent said that Howard would undergo surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back and would miss the rest of the 2011–12 season, as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. During the offseason, Howard again requested a trade to the Nets, who had relocated to Brooklyn. He intended to become a free agent at the end of the 2012–13 season if he was not traded to Brooklyn.
Los Angeles Lakers (2012–2013)
On August 10, 2012, Howard was traded from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that also involved the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets. Howard took six months off from basketball after his April back surgery, and only had the combined four weeks of training camp and preseason to prepare for the season. Still working himself into shape, Howard paced himself throughout the season on both offense and defense. On January 4, 2013, Howard injured his right shoulder in the second half of the Lakers' 107–102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. At the midpoint of the season, the Lakers were a disappointing 17–24. Howard was averaging 17.1 points on 58.2% shooting, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks, but also 3.6 fouls a game with 3.2 turnovers while making only 50.4% of his free throws.
Howard was upset that he was not getting the ball enough, and he felt that Kobe Bryant was shooting too much. Moving forward, Howard said he needed to "bring it" and dominate in more ways than just scoring. Howard missed games due to his recurring shoulder injury in January and February. In February, Bryant said that Howard "worries too much" and "doesn't want to let anyone down", urging him to play through the pain when Pau Gasol was sidelined with a torn plantar fascia. Howard returned the next game after commenting that Bryant was "not a doctor, I'm not a doctor. That's his opinion."
During the All-Star break, Howard adopted a healthier diet to get into better shape to anchor the Lakers' defense and run D'Antoni's preferred pick and rolls. Still, on February 23, Howard said he was "not even close" to physically being where he wanted to be. Coach Mike D'Antoni attributed Howard's difficulty running the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash (a play the coach had expected would be a staple for the team) to Howard's lack of conditioning. The Lakers were 8–2 after the All-Star break, passing Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and Howard averaged 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. In his first game back in Orlando on March 12, Howard scored a season-high 39 points and had 16 rebounds in a 106–97 Lakers win. Booed throughout the game, he made 25-of-39 free throws, setting Lakers records for free throws made and attempted while tying his NBA record for attempts.[a] Howard made 16-of-20 free throws when he was fouled intentionally by the Magic. With Howard anchoring the Lakers defense and his improved overall play, the Lakers made the playoffs, but were swept in the opening round by San Antonio. Howard was ejected in Game 4 with over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Howard finished the season with his lowest scoring average since his second year in the NBA, but was the league leader in rebounding and ranked second in field goal percentage. Although he was recovering from his back surgery, he only missed six games all season—all due to his torn labrum. Howard was named to the All-NBA Third Team after having received five consecutive first-team honors. He became a free agent in the summer, and was offered a maximum contract of five years and $118 million by the Lakers.
Houston Rockets (2013–2016)
On July 13, 2013, Howard signed with the Houston Rockets, joining James Harden to form a formidable duo. Howard finished the regular season with averages of 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds and earned All-NBA Second Team honors. During the 2014 playoffs, Howard averaged 26 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, but the Rockets were eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, losing the series 4–2.
After playing in the Rockets' first 10 out of 11 games to start the 2014–15 season, Howard missed 11 straight due to a strained right knee before returning to action on December 13 against the Denver Nuggets and recording his 10,000th career rebound. However, on January 31, Howard was ruled out for a further month due to persistent trouble with his right knee. After setbacks forced him out for a further month and a total of 26 games, Howard returned to action on March 25 against the New Orleans Pelicans. He started the game but was held under 17 minutes by coach Kevin McHale and finished with just four points and seven rebounds in a 95–93 win. Howard played only 41 games in the regular season. The Rockets clinched their first division title in over 20 years and made it to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost 4–1 to the Golden State Warriors.
On November 4, 2015, Howard had 23 points and 14 rebounds against the Orlando Magic. He shot 10-of-10 to become the first Rocket to make 10 or more field goals without a miss since Yao Ming went 12-of-12 in 2009. On December 26, he eclipsed 15,000 points for his career in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. On January 18, 2016, in an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Howard had 36 points and tied a career high with 26 rebounds en route to his 10th straight double-double, the league's longest active streak at the time, and his longest since a 14-game run in 2012–13. On June 22, 2016, Howard declined his $23 million player option for the 2016–17 season and became an unrestricted free agent.
Atlanta Hawks (2016–2017)
On July 12, 2016, Howard signed a three-year, $70 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. With the retirement of Tim Duncan, Howard entered the 2016–17 season as the NBA's active leader in rebounds (12,089) and blocked shots (1,916). In his debut for the Hawks in their season opener on October 27, Howard grabbed 19 rebounds in a 114–99 win over the Washington Wizards. It was the most rebounds for anyone in their Atlanta debut, breaking the mark of 18 that Shareef Abdur-Rahim set on October 30, 2001. On November 2, he scored a season-high 31 points in a 123–116 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. On February 2, he had a season-best game with 24 points and 23 rebounds in a 113–108 win over the Rockets in Houston.
Charlotte Hornets (2017–2018)
On June 20, 2017, the Hawks traded Howard, along with the 31st overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the 41st overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. To begin the season, Howard became the first Charlotte player since Emeka Okafor in 2007 with four consecutive 15-rebound games. In the fifth game of the season, he had another 15-rebound game. On March 15, he scored 20 of his season-high 33 points in the second half of the Hornets' 129–117 win over the Atlanta Hawks. On March 21, Howard recorded 32 points and a franchise-record 30 rebounds in a 111–105 win over the Nets, becoming just the eighth player in league history with a 30–30 game. He became the first NBA player with a 30-point, 30-rebound game since Kevin Love in November 2010, and the first player with a 30–30 game against the Nets since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in February 1978. Howard finished the season with a franchise-record 53 double-doubles and joined Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to hold single-season records with two teams. Howard also became one of six players to average a double-double in each of his first 13 seasons in the league.
On July 6, 2018, Howard was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, the draft rights to Hamidou Diallo, a 2021 second-round draft pick and cash considerations. He was waived by the Nets immediately upon being acquired.
Washington Wizards (2018–2019)
On July 12, 2018, Howard signed with the Washington Wizards. He missed all of training camp, every exhibition game and the first seven regular-season games with a sore backside. He appeared in nine games in November before missing the rest of the season after undergoing spinal surgery to relieve pain in his glutes. In March 2019, it was revealed that Howard, in addition to his back injury, was also dealing with a hamstring issue.
On April 18, 2019, Howard exercised his $5.6 million player option to play a second season with the Wizards.
On August 24, 2019, Howard was waived by the Grizzlies.
National team career
Howard was named on March 5, 2006 to the 2006–2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team program. As the team's regular starting center, he helped lead the team to a 5–0 record during its pre-World Championship tour, and subsequently helped the team win the bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. During the FIBA Americas Championship 2007, Howard was on the team which won its first nine games en route to qualifying for the finals and a spot for the 2008 Olympics. He started in eight of those nine games, averaging 8.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg and led the team in shooting .778 from the field. In the finals, he made all seven of his shots and scored 20 points as the USA defeated Argentina to win the gold medal.
On June 23, 2008, Howard was named as one of the members of the 12-man squad representing the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. With Howard starting as center, Team USA won all of its games en route to the gold medal, breaking their drought of gold medals dating back to the 2000 Olympics. Howard averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the tournament.
Standing at 6 feet 11 inches tall (2.11 m) and weighing 265 pounds (120 kg), Howard plays the center position. Howard led the NBA in rebounding from 2007 to 2010, and again from 2012 to 2013. Howard's rebounding is in part facilitated by his extraordinary athleticism; his running vertical leap was tested at 39.5 inches in 2011, rare for a player of his size. He demonstrated this skill in the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest, where he completed an alley oop dunk from teammate Jameer Nelson while slapping a sticker onto the backboard at 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) high. The sticker showed an image of his own smiling face with a handwritten "All things through Christ Phil: 4:13", a paraphrase of Philippians 4:13.
Howard's abilities and powerful physique have drawn attention from fellow NBA All-Stars. Tim Duncan once remarked in 2007: "[Howard] is so developed... He has so much promise and I am glad that I will be out of the league when he is peaking." Kevin Garnett echoed those sentiments: "[Howard] is a freak of nature, man... I was nowhere near that physically talented. I wasn't that gifted, as far as body and physical presence." Subsequent to a game in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala said: "It's like he can guard two guys at once. He can guard his guy and the guy coming off the pick-and-roll, which is almost impossible to do... If he gets any more athletic or jumps any higher, they're going to have to change the rules." In December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA. Early in his career, many sports pundits rated Howard as one of the top young prospects in the NBA.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|*||Led the league|
On November 18, 2007, Howard's ex-girlfriend, former Magic dancer Royce Reed, gave birth to their son, Braylon. "'I was ashamed because I’d talked so much about being a Christian, professed my faith to the whole world, and here I was with a baby out of wedlock,'" Howard said. "'I felt like I didn’t need my relationship with God anymore, and that caused a lot of pain.'" Howard won a defamation judgment against Reed in 2010, when a Florida judge ruled that she violated a court order prohibiting her from mentioning him in the media. He had initially sought $550,500,000 in damages, claiming that she had disparaged him through Twitter and her appearances on the reality television show, Basketball Wives, as the couple's paternity agreement stipulated a $500 fine for each time she mentioned him in public.
In October 2014, police in Cobb County, Georgia investigated claims by Reed that Howard abused their son. Howard had admitted to hitting Braylon with a belt; he had been disciplined in the same manner while growing up, and he stated that he did not realize it was wrong to do so. Howard was not charged in connection with the allegations. Howard was also involved in a civil case with Reed over custody of their son.
Howard has said, "'I came from a little box where everyone wanted to protect me from the big world I was about to enter. But when I finally got into that world and took a look around, I wanted to experience all of it.'" As of September 2017, Howard—who has never married—had fathered five children by five different women living in three different states. The children reportedly "visit Atlanta every off-season." In a 2017 interview, Howard said, "'It’s a tough situation, obviously... I should have been more responsible. I messed up. I sinned. But I won’t look at any of [my children] as a mistake. They’re all a blessing to me.'"
Howard keeps approximately 20 snakes as pets and has appeared twice in Animal Planet's reality TV series Tanked. He owns a farm "in north Georgia where he relaxes [with] cows, hogs, turkeys and deer," and also grows vegetables on his estate.
Philanthropy, faith, and public image
Before he was drafted in 2004, Howard said that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world". He has stated he believes in reaching out to his community and fans and thus contributes substantially in the field of philanthropy. As of 2007, Howard—an avid listener of Gospel music—attended the Fellowship of Faith Church in Atlanta and was involved and active with its youth programs. Together with his parents, Howard also established the Dwight D. Howard Foundation Inc. in 2004. The Foundation provides scholarships for students who want to attend his alma mater, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and grants to Lovell Elementary School and Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Florida. The Foundation also organizes summer basketball camps for boys and girls, and together with high school and college coaches and players, fellow NBA players are invited to be on hand at the camp. For his contributions in the Central Florida community, Howard received in 2005 the Rich and Helen De Vos Community Enrichment Award. Within the NBA itself, Howard has participated in several NBA "Read to Achieve" assemblies encouraging children to make reading a priority. In November 2009, the center was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work. In 2009, Howard, along with several other NBA players, joined the Hoops for St. Jude charity program benefitting the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Elsewhere, Howard appeared as a special guest on an episode of the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired April 2, 2006, in which Ty Pennington and his team built a new home and ministry offices for Sadie Holmes, who operates a social services ministry in the Orlando area. He made another appearance on the show in the October 9, 2011 episode.
In 2014, Epix featured Howard as the focal point of a documentary about his life called In the Moment. The film was directed by Ross Greenburg and Executive Producers include Michael D. Ratner and Matthew Weaver.
- List of career achievements by Dwight Howard
- List of National Basketball Association career games played leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career rebounding leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career blocks leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career turnovers leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career free throw scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff blocks leaders
- List of National Basketball Association annual rebounding leaders
- List of National Basketball Association annual blocks leaders
- List of National Basketball Association players with most blocks in a game
- List of National Basketball Association players with most rebounds in a game
- List of National Basketball Association franchise career scoring leaders
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