Dwight Howard Cites LeBron's Experience as Reason for Leaving Orlando

Dwight Howard's trade saga reveals deeper team tensions

by Nouman Rasool
Dwight Howard Cites LeBron's Experience as Reason for Leaving Orlando
© Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic's linchpin from 2004 to 2012, was more than just a dominant player in the NBA. During his prime, Howard clinched three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year titles from 2009 to 2011, establishing himself as the league's premier center.

However, despite his success and multiple All-Star selections, Howard's tenure with the Magic was marred by unmet expectations, particularly following the team's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. Howard expressed disappointment over the Magic's roster changes post-Finals, believing that maintaining their lineup could have bolstered their championship aspirations.

"When we went to the Finals, they kinda broke up all the players. They all got traded, they brought Vince in and other pieces. I thought that was our year, the year we went to the Finals, and I thought next year if we kept the same squad," Howard recounted on the OGs podcast.

Frustrated, he approached Otis Smith, the team's GM, with a request to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets—a plea he hoped would be handled privately to avoid public backlash similar to what LeBron James faced during his infamous "The Decision."

Trade Fallout Escalates

However, Howard's request did not stay under wraps, leading to tensions within the team and fanbase.

The situation escalated, and instead of moving to Brooklyn, Howard was traded to the Lakers, where his performance was hindered by a back injury, diminishing his reputation and leaving him as the subject of league-wide ridicule.

Jameer Nelson, Howard's teammate, highlighted the internal divide this caused. "It was a divided room. Some guys on the team were like, 'He needs to go because it was too much of a distraction,' the organization basically said, 'We need him.'

I was in the middle like if that's what he wants to do, it's a business, he got to do what he got to do for his career," Nelson explained on Real Ones. Howard's stint with the Lakers proved challenging, and he eventually left for the Houston Rockets after just one season.

Meanwhile, the Magic received Nikola Vucevic in the trade, who became a key player for them but couldn't propel the team to contender status. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that Orlando saw a potential return on their long-term investment, trading Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls for draft picks, one of which turned into Franz Wagner, a hopeful cornerstone of the franchise alongside Paolo Banchero.

Despite the rocky paths for both Howard and the Magic post-trade, Howard found redemption during his second stint with the Lakers, capturing his elusive NBA championship in 2020. This chapter in Howard's career exemplifies the complex nature of NBA trades and the enduring impact they can have on players and franchises alike.

Dwight Howard