Dwight Howard opens up on decision to leave Lakers during prime: ‘My emotions got the best of me’

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard did win one NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the well-traveled big man is still lamenting what might have been had he not left L.A. during the prime of his career.

“Looking back on it, man, I made an emotional decision,” Howard said. “It was real emotional, and I heard that wasn’t good. They said Kobe [Bryant] said he wanted me to stay, but I don’t know, I don’t know. I wish I could go back and be like, let me make this decision wisely, weigh everything out. I don’t think I weighed my decision really well at the time. My emotions got the best of me.”

After starting his NBA career with eight seasons for the Orlando Magic, Howard arrived to the Lakers in a trade prior to the 2012-13 NBA season.

Though the team went to great lengths to try to get him to stay beyond that one somewhat disappointing campaign, he left to sign with the Houston Rockets as a free agent. The efforts to retain him included billboards around the area with the phrase “Stay DH12” as well as calls from celebrities and members of the Lakers organization in which he was asked about his plans.

Despite that, Howard chose to join the Rockets, wanting a chance to form a powerful duo with James Harden. The Lakers struggled after his departure, failing to make the playoffs for six straight seasons. Ironically, when he returned, they finally reached the playoffs again and went on to capture the 2020 NBA Finals.

Howard lasted just three seasons in Houston before starting a journey around the NBA that included single-season stints with the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards.

The winding road ultimately led back to the Lakers when Howard signed with L.A. as a free agent prior to the 2019-20 NBA season. That pandemic-altered campaign resulted in the Lakers winning the 2020 NBA title with a victory against the Miami Heat in the Orlando, Fla. bubble.

He then left L.A. again, joining the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2020-21 season before finally coming back to the Lakers and playing his last NBA campaign in the 2021-22 season.

Howard has been looking to reboot his career, including an effort to join the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2023-24 season. He also offered his services (perhaps jokingly) to the Lakers during the 2024 NBA playoffs.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dwight Howard (@dwighthoward)

The 38-year-old recently announced that he will play for the Taiwan Mustangs while also having ownership roles with the team and its league. So, if he remains in playing shape, one possible final stint with the Lakers may still not be out of the question.

Share This Article
Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.