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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who is Dwight David Howard?

Who is Dwight David Howard? The professional basketball world knows Dwight Howard as an American basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Howard, who usually plays center but can also play power forward, had an outstanding high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. He chose to forgo college and entered the 2004 NBA Draft, and was selected first overall by the Magic. A five-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA team selection, four-time All-Defensive member, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard has been ranked consistently as one of the best in the league in rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw attempts, and has set numerous franchise and league records. He has led the Magic to three division titles and one conference title, and he was the winner of the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In the 2008 Olympics, he was the starting center for Team USA, which went on to win the gold medal.
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". In November 2009, he was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work.

Early life

Howard was born December 8, 1985 in Atlanta, Georgia 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.[1] A devout Christian since his youth, Howard became serious about basketball around the age of nine; when in the eighth grade, he resolved to be selected as the number one pick in the NBA Draft one day.[2][3] Despite his large frame, Howard was quick and versatile enough to play the guard position.[3] 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 per game (ppg), 13.4 rebounds per game (rpg) and 6.3 blocks per game in 129 appearances.[1][3] As a senior, Howard led his team to the 2004 state title.[3] He averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8.1 blocks and 3.5 assists per game.[3] 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.[4] He was also co-MVP (with J. R. Smith) of the McDonald's High School All-American Game that year.[4]

NBA career

Early years

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.[1][3] He took the number 12 for his jersey, in part because it was the reverse of Garnett's 21 when he played for Minnesota.[5] 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.[3] Howard, however, made an immediate impact. He finished his rookie season with an average of 12.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg,[6] setting several NBA records in the process. He became the youngest player in NBA history to average a double double in the regular season.[4] He also became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 10.0 rebounds in a season and youngest NBA player ever to record at least 20 rebounds in a game.[4] 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.[4] For his efforts, he was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Rookie Challenge, and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team.[4] He also finished third to fellow center Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats and guard Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls for the Rookie of the Year award.[7]
Howard reported to camp for his second NBA campaign having added 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season.[3] Orlando coach Brian Hill—responsible for grooming former Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal—decided that Howard should be converted into a full-fledged center.[3] 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.[3] Even though the big man played tentatively at times, he was able to build on his strong rookie year with an impressive sophomore season. On November 15, 2005, in a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard scored 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.[8] He was selected to play on the Sophomore Team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge during the All-Star break,[1] and on April 15, 2006, he recorded a career-high 26 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers; his 28 points in that game also brought him close to an NBA rarity, a 30–30 game.[3][6] Overall, he averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds[6] per game, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and double doubles; and sixth in field goal percentage.[1] Despite Howard's improvement, the Magic finished the season with a 36–46 win-loss record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season since Howard's arrival.[9]
Howard took another step forward as the franchise player for Orlando in the 2006–07 season, and for the third consecutive season he played in all 82 regular season games.[6] 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.[1] Howard finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds.[10] Less than a week later, he recorded a career-high 32 points against the Toronto Raptors.[11] A highlight was his game-winning alley-oop off an inbound at the buzzer against the San Antonio Spurs at Amway Arena on February 9.[12] As the push for playoff spots intensified, Howard was instrumental, recording another career-high 35 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 14, 2007.[13] Under his leadership, the Magic qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2003 as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference.[14] However, the Magic were swept by the eventual Eastern Conference finalist Detroit Pistons in the first round.[15] Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and finished first in the NBA in total rebounds, second in field goal percentage, and ninth in blocks. He was further recognized as one of the best players in the league when he was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006–07 campaign.[16]

Leader of consecutive division champions

Rashard Lewis
Howard continued posting impressive numbers in the 2007–08 season; with free agent Rashard Lewis added to the ranks alongisde Hedo Türkoğlu to provide an extra offensive spark, this was the Magic's best season yet. Howard's strong and consistent play ensured that he was named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and by the time the mid-season break arrived, he was leading the league in double doubles (he concluded the season with a league-high 69) and had recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game on five occasions (eight by the season's end).[17][18] On February 16, 2008, he won the 2008 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.[19] Howard led the Magic to their first division title in 12 years and to the third seed for the 2008 NBA Playoffs,[18] and in the first-round match-up against the Toronto Raptors, Howard's dominance (three 20 point/20 rebound games) and point guard Jameer Nelson's strong play ensured that Orlando prevailed over five games.[20] Howard's series total of 91 rebounds was also greater than the total rebounds collected by the entire Toronto frontcourt.[21] In the next round against the Pistons, the Magic lost the first two road games before Howard's 20 point/12 rebound performance in Game 3 salvaged a home win.[22] In that same week, the center was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time,[18] and subsequently, the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.[23] Detroit played without their star point guard Chauncey Billups for Games 4 and 5, but Orlando was unable to capitalize on that and lost the series 4–1 to the veteran playoffs team.[24]
slam dunk contest 2008
The 2008–09 campaign began well for Howard. Ten games into the season, the center was leading the league in blocks per game (4.2) and even recorded his first triple-double: 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks.[25] At the halfway point of the season, Howard was leading the league in rebounds and blocks, and was among the league leaders in field goal percentage. 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.[26] On March 25, 2009, Howard led Orlando to its second straight Southeast Division title with 11 games of the regular season left to play,[27] and eventually the third seed for the 2009 NBA Playoffs with a 59–23 record.[28] On April 21, 2009, he became the youngest player ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, achieving a goal he had set for himself before the start of the season.[5] The Magic went into the playoffs without its injured starting point guard Jameer Nelson, and in the first round 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. On May 6, 2009, the center was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team,[29] and a week later, to the All-NBA First Team.[30] In the second round of the playoffs against the defending champions Boston, the Magic blew a lead in Game 5 and Howard publicly questioned coach Stan Van Gundy's tactics and said that he should be given the ball more; in Game 6, the center posted 23 points and 22 rebounds to force the series into seven games.[31] The Magic went on to defeat Boston, and then defeated Cleveland—which was led by league MVP LeBron James—4–2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Howard had a playoffs career-high 40 points to go with his 14 rebounds in the deciding Game 6, leading Orlando to its first NBA Finals in 14 years.[32] The Los Angeles Lakers took the first two home games to establish a 2–0 lead in the Finals, before a home win by the Magic brought the score 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.[33] The Lakers went on to win Game 5, and the NBA Finals.[34]
The Magic went into the 2009–10 season with one major roster change: Türkoğlu departed for the Toronto Raptors, while eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter arrived from the New Jersey Nets. As with the previous two seasons, the Magic got off to a strong start, winning 17 of their first 21 games, setting a franchise record in the process. He also picked up two Conference Player of the Week awards. On January 21, 2010, Howard was named as the starting center for the East in the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.[35] Not long after the Magic completed the regular season with 59 wins and their third consecutive division title, Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second straight year.[36] 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.[36] During the playoffs, the Magic defeated both Charlotte and Atlanta 4 games to none, in the first and second rounds respectively. In reaching the Conference Finals again, the Magic faced Boston—who had upset Cleveland in the Semifinals—Orlando lost the first three games, took the next two, but finally succumbed in Game 6.
Several teams in the Eastern Conference underwent significant roster changes to present a bigger challenge to Howard's Magic in the 2010–11 season: LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade in Miami; Carlos Boozer was added to the Chicago Bulls; the aging Boston Celtics acquired Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal; and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony joined New York. On Orlando's end, Türkoğlu returned, Carter and Jason Richardson of the Phoenix Suns swapped teams, as did Lewis and Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards. The Magic won 52 games in the regular season, and were seeded 4th in the Eastern Conference. Despite Howard posting career-highs in points and shooting percentages, the Magic lost to their first-round opponents in the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks.

NBA honors, awards and achievements

Howard has amassed several NBA and franchise records and awards during his NBA career. He has led the league in rebounds per game three times, blocks per game twice, and double-doubles twice. He is also the youngest player in NBA history to reach one, two, three, four, five, six and seven thousand career rebounds, and the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding and blocks. Following Howard's 2009–10 season, he became the first ever NBA player to lead the league in total rebounds for five consecutive seasons. He surpassed Wilt Chamberlain's record of four from 1959–601962–63, and again from 1965–661968–69. He became the first player to lead the league in rebounding and blocks in consecutive seasons, and was also the first player to ever lead the league in rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage in the same season. On April 18, 2011, Howard won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, becoming the first player in league history to have won the award in three consecutive seasons.
Correct through 2010–11 regular season[6]

Regular season


Led the league
Year↓ Team↓ GP↓ GS↓ MPG↓ FG%↓ 3P%↓ FT%↓ RPG↓ APG↓ SPG↓ BPG↓ PPG↓
2004–05 Orlando 82 82 32.6 .520 .000 .671 10.0 .9 .9 1.7 12.0
2005–06 Orlando 82 81 36.8 .531 .000 .595 12.5 1.5 .8 1.4 15.8
2006–07 Orlando 82 82 36.9 .603 .500 .586 12.3 1.9 .9 1.9 17.6
2007–08 Orlando 82 82 37.7 .599 .000 .590 14.2[37] 1.3 .9 2.2 20.7
2008–09 Orlando 79 79 35.7 .572 .000 .594 13.8[38] 1.4 1.0 2.9[39] 20.6
2009–10 Orlando 82 82 34.7 .612[40] .000 .592 13.2 [41] 1.8 .9 2.8[42] 18.3
2010–11 Orlando 78 78 37.5 .593 .000 .596 14.1 1.4 1.4 2.4 22.9
Career 567 566 36.0 .578 .038 .598 12.9 1.5 1.0 2.2 18.2
All-Star 5 4 25.4 .674 .167 .444 8.4 1.2 1.0 1.6 14.2

Playoffs

Year↓ Team↓ GP↓ GS↓ MPG↓ FG%↓ 3P%↓ FT%↓ RPG↓ APG↓ SPG↓ BPG↓ PPG↓
2007 Orlando 4 4 41.8 .548 .000 .455 14.8 1.8 .5 1.0 15.3
2008 Orlando 10 10 42.1 .581 .000 .542 15.8[43] .9 .8 3.4[43] 18.9
2009 Orlando 23 23 39.3 .601[44] .000 .636 15.3[44] 1.9 .9 2.6 20.3
2010 Orlando 14 14 35.5 .614 .000 .519 11.1 1.4 .8 3.5[45] 18.1
2011 Orlando 6 6 42.8 .630[46] .000 .682 15.5[46] 0.5 .7 1.8 27.0
Career 57 57 39.4 .600 .000 .588 14.4 1.4 .8 2.8 19.9

United States national team

Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Olympic Games
Gold 2008 Beijing Team competition
FIBA World Championship
Bronze 2006 Japan Team competition
FIBA Americas Championship
Gold 2007 Las Vegas Team competition
Howard was named on 5 March 2006 to the 2006–2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team program.[1] 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.[1] 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.[47] 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.[48] In the finals, he made all seven of his shots and scored 20 points as the USA defeated Argentina to win the gold medal.[49]
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.[50] 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.[51] Howard averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the tournament.[52]

Player profile

Howard is considered the "franchise player" of the Magic.[53][54] He is the NBA's leading rebounder (also leading the league in 2007–08 and 2008–09); to illustrate, in a game against the Golden State Warriors on January 10, 2007, his 25 rebounds for the Magic outnumbered the total number of boards grabbed by the starting five of the Warriors.[55] Howard's rebounding is in part facilitated by his extraordinary athleticism; his vertical leap is estimated at almost 40 inches, rare for a player of his size (6'11", 265 pounds).[56] He demonstrated this skill memorably in the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA All-Star Weekend, during which he completed an alley oop dunk from teammate Jameer Nelson and slapped a sticker onto the backboard which reached 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m).[57] 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.[58] As of April 2011, Howard's career average of 12.9 rebounds per game (in the regular season) ranks 13th in NBA history.[59] The center has also remained largely injury-free in his NBA career, playing in 351 consecutive games before missing his first game.[60]
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."[61] 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."[61] 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."[5] As early as December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA.[62]
While many sports pundits have been rating Howard as one of the top young prospects in the NBA since 2006,[56][63][64] Howard has some weaknesses in his game. Offensively, his shooting range remains limited; he is also mistake-prone, having led the NBA in total number of turnovers in the 2006–07 season.[65] Like many centers, he has a low free throw conversion percentage.[6] As a result, he is often a target of the Hack-a-Shaq defense and is annually among the league leaders in free throw attempts. During the 2007–08 regular season, Howard led the NBA with 897 free throw attempts while shooting only 59% from the free throw line.[66] Also in that season, outside of layups and dunks, his shooting percentage was only 31.6%.[21] In the 2008–09 season, he led the NBA again with 849 free throw attempts and in 2009–10, he was second in the NBA with 816.

Personal life

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".[67] He has stated he believes in reaching out to his community and fans and thus contributes substantially in the field of philanthropy.[2] An avid listener of Gospel music, he attends the Fellowship of Faith Church when he is back home in Atlanta and is involved and active with the youth programs at the church.[68] Together with his parents, Howard also established the Dwight D. Howard Foundation Inc. in 2004.[69] 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.[69] 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.[70] For his contributions in the Central Florida community, Howard received in 2005 the Rich and Helen De Vos Community Enrichment Award.[68] Within the NBA itself, Howard has participated in several NBA "Read to Achieve" assemblies encouraging children to make reading a priority.[68] 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.[71]
Elsewhere, Howard appeared as a special guest on an episode of the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired 2 April 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.[72]
Howard and Royce Reed, a former dancer for the team, have a son, Braylon.[73]

 










 




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