After 8 seasons with the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers in what was, at the time, the biggest move of the summer.
For most stars, donning the Purple and Gold is akin to waking up on Christmas morning as a kid. The bright lights and rich lore of the franchise are enough to make any player giddy with excitement.
For Howard, though, landing with the Lakers was actually a scenario he wanted to avoid. In a recent chat with Fred Katz of The Athletic, he explained why:
“My intention when I first left Orlando was not to go to L.A., and the Magic knew that, but despite my wishes to go somewhere else, they sent me to L.A., which was one of the places at that time that I did not want to go. I felt like it would have made people feel as though I was trying to follow in somebody else’s footsteps.”
The "someone else" Dwight speaks of is obviously Shaquille O'Neal, a player with who Howard has a rather complicated history.
After donning Shaq's 'Superman' nickname, joining the Lakers to team up with Kobe drew even more parallels between him and the Diesel, and it's probably why the two don't have a very good relationship today.
Nevertheless, it happened, and Dwight eventually warmed up to the idea of calling L.A. his new home.
“When they traded me there, I said, ‘You know what? This might be where I’m supposed to be,’” Howard said.
He left the team after just that single season, shocking many in the community. But, according to him, the decision was based purely on basketball, not about the intricacies of life as a Laker.
Howard left the Lakers after a season and then spent three years in Houston, saying it wasn’t because he “couldn’t handle the bright lights or handle the pressure of being in L.A.,” but because he saw a younger team with a younger elite shooting guard in James Harden.
“I love the camera. I love entertaining,” Howard said. “But I made a career choice.”
Looking back, Howard was never a great fit for that Lakers team, and it showed on the basketball court, where the team struggled to find their groove all season long.
Of course, Howard would end up winning a title with the Lakers years later, alongside LeBron James, so all is forgiven now. It's actually kind of funny how things worked out in the end...