It was a small blimp in Dwight Howard's 16-year career -- but there was a moment when Dwight Howard was a star on the Lakers and a teammate of Kobe Bean Bryant.
That season was a tumultuous one for both, with Howard struggling with the pressure and Kobe struggling with trying to carry the team at 34-years-old. Despite Championship aspirations, the team squeezed into the playoffs only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the very first round.
Kobe sat out the next season with a torn Achilles and Dwight moved on to Houston, with seemingly no desire to ever return.
Seven years later, Dwight is now in the Finals playing for a Championship on the very team he abandoned earlier in his career. While the circumstances are drastically different with this team than they were in 2013, it didn't stop Dwight from reflecting on his experience with Kobe, citing how he challenged him to become better both on and off the court.
“He (Kobe) was like: ‘What you mean? You’re already one of the best in the world. What do you mean? Continue to do what you’re doing, continue to play hard. Work on the elbow jump shot and bank shots.’,” Dwight told ‘The Athletic’ in an interview.
I was like, ‘Well, how many shots do you shoot in a day?’ He said he used to make 1,000 shots a day. That’s what I started doing: Shooting and making 1,000 jump shots a day. And the next year (2010-11), I was second in the MVP (race, behind Derrick Rose).”
Bryant's insane work ethic has often been revered by players and teammates. From the time he entered the league as a 17-year-old rookie in 1996, he was outworking everyone on the floor. And, obviously, it led to pretty positive results.
Kobe was trying to instill that same mindset into Howard. He saw what it did for his game years ago and, today, those words are still on his mind (and in his heart) as he prepares to fight for an NBA Championship.