Dwight Howard had tears in his eyes, and his voice began to crack. It didn’t matter, though, because he’d done it: As of Sunday night, Howard is an NBA champion.
One of the NBA’s great active centers, Howard took a bench role in joining the Lakers in hopes of chasing the 2020 NBA title. A championship is one of the few things Howard lacked in an accolade-filled NBA career. When the Lakers beat the Heat on Sunday night, Howard could officially add a ring to his resume.
Howard took to Instagram Live after the game, where he delivered a slightly NSFW message about believing in yourself.
“Everybody out there,” Howard began, “Don’t ever give up on your dreams. You can f—king do it. I swear, just keep playing. I swear to God, don’t ever give up on yourself. Look at this s—t, bruh. I’m sorry for cursing, all the kids out there. Bro listen, don’t ever give up on yourself, no matter how hard it gets. You already a champion.”
Howard made a name for himself with the Magic after being taken first overall in the 2004 NBA Draft (a year after LeBron James went first overall). He won three Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Magic and led Orlando to one NBA Finals appearance, a loss to the Spurs. Howard joined the Lakers once before, with Steve Nash in 2012, but that experiment went up in flames and Howard bounced around to Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington.
In 2018-19, Howard played just nine games for the Wizards because of injury. The Lakers picked him up mostly as an afterthought to pair with Javale McGee in supplementing Anthony Davis’ minutes at the 5. Howard wound up playing a crucial role in the postseason for L.A., starting their final two games of the Western Conference Finals against Denver and then the first five games against the Heat.
Howard was on the floor at the conclusion of Sunday’s games as the Lakers finished off a blowout of the Heat. With the win not at all in doubt, Howard fired a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 20 seconds remaining. He’d never made a 3-pointer in the playoffs, and only had nine in his entire NBA regular season career. But fittingly, Howard nailed it to put an exclamation point on his first NBA title.
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