Dwight Howard Drawing Inspiration From Legendary Lakers Center

Robert Marvi
4 Min Read

So far in training camp, Dwight Howard has been attracting praise from his teammates and coaching staff for his focus and work ethic.

“Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around. We’re asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves, and he’s been an all-business type of guy,” Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s really helped us be focused.”

After his first stint with the Lakers ended in disastrous fashion six years ago, Howard seems to be determined to rewrite his narrative, and he says he’s looking to a legendary Lakers center as an example.

“That’s my favorite player. … Wilt [Chamberlain] is my favorite player,” said Howard. “I’ve looked up tons of videos on him, I have a Wilt Chamberlain painting in my room. … I was about to get ‘Wilt Chamberlain’ tatted on my arm right here. He’s my favorite player, and he’s one of my favorite people in life. The thing that he did was sacrifice.

“A lot of time it’s hard for us to sacrifice, because we want to be that person, when the only thing that matters is getting another trophy. And when Wilt decided, ‘Hey, I’ve done all the scoring, I’ve done all the other stuff, let me just do what this team is asking me to do,’ he had one of the best seasons of his career. He won a championship. I want to have that same approach, and bring out the will inside of me and help this team win.”

Chamberlain is widely considered not just one of the greatest centers in NBA history, but one of the greatest players ever. He set many Herculean records throughout his 14-year NBA career, one of which was his 100-point game during the 1961-62 season.

That year, he averaged 50.4 points per game while playing nearly every single minute of every single game for the Philadelphia Warriors. The next season, he put up 44.8 points per game, and remains the only player in league history to average at least 40 points per game for an entire season.

But his teams didn’t win the NBA title, and partly as a result, Chamberlain developed a reputation as a man who was stubbornly obsessed with his individual stats and glory.

It wasn’t until the 1966-67 season, as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, that his fortunes changed. Sixers coach Alex Hannum asked Chamberlain to focus much less on scoring and more on defense, rebounding and creating shots for his teammates.

As a result, his scoring average dropped to just 24.1 a game, nearly 10 points lower than the prior season, but he also contributed 24.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists, as the Sixers defeated the dynastic Boston Celtics in the playoffs, then overcame the San Francisco Warriors to give Chamberlain his first world championship.

That trend continued when he became a Laker in 1968-69. He averaged an uncharacteristically low 14.8 points a game, along with 19.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists as the team won its first NBA title in Los Angeles in 1972.

Whether Howard starts or comes off the bench, he will likely play far fewer minutes and get far fewer touches on offense than he has for most of his career.

But if he sticks to that role and doesn’t cause the type of problems he’s been known for, he could become one of the better feel-good stories in recent NBA history.

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Robert is a native of Santa Monica, Calif., and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an avid NBA fan since he was a little kid in the mid '90s and fell in love with the Nick Van Exel-led Lakers teams. He truly cherishes the Kobe Bryant-era of Lakers basketball and the five world championships that came with it, and is looking forward to the team's next NBA title.