One of the biggest redemption stories in the NBA during the 2019-20 season was that of Dwight Howard as just before the start of the year he made the shocking move of returning to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The signing was met with a lot of scrutiny considering Howard’s history in the organization, infamously leaving in free agency in 2013 after just one season with the team.
It has proven to be a great move for both sides though as Howard has revived his career while helping the Lakers hold the best record in the Western Conference with some stellar play off the bench.
In an interview on “Daddy Issues with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss explained the thought process behind bringing Howard back:
“When Dwight came back, people were kind of like, ‘Jeanie, how could you guys bring somebody that Kobe was frustrated with or that left the Lakers?’ I said, ‘I completely understand why Dwight left as a free agent. Mike D’Antoni was not a coach that was going to put him in a position to succeed because he liked shooters instead of big men.’
“But Kobe was always there to make the team better. Meaning, if Dwight Howard can make your team better, then you have to get Dwight Howard. It was always about winning (for Kobe), so if a player can help him win, he didn’t have to be best friends with him. It was all about, are you going to do the work, be part of a team and are you going to contribute instead of being a distraction? As it turned out, Dwight has been amazing for us.”
Friction between Kobe Bryant and Howard during the 2012-13 season was certainly a big topic of conversation at the time and likely helped push the big man out of L.A.
Ultimately, winning is the most important thing in the Lakers organization though, so Buss said that Bryant supported the Lakers reuniting with Howard:
“I’m nodding my head yes. I mean, Kobe wanted us to win. He wanted to see the Lakers win, and Kobe came to a couple games and he was happy to see Dwight, and greeted him. You don’t ever give up on anybody; Phil Jackson taught me that.”
Just days before Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash this past January, Howard said that he reached out to his former teammate to help him with the Slam Dunk Contest.
While that ultimately was not able to happen, it is good to see that the two were able to repair their relationship before Bryant’s passing.
Howard’s turnaround and winning back the good graces of the fanbase has been nothing short of remarkable. And just as much as the fans have grown to appreciate Howard, he’s relished the second opportunity.