By the time you read this, you would’ve had your meeting with the Houston Rockets already. And presumptively, they promised you the world. A chance to be the man again in a city where there’s no income tax. An opportunity to be surrounded by younger, more athletic players than you were in Los Angeles. Most importantly, they likely sold you on the prospect of a fresh start.
The meetings you will have with Atlanta, Dallas and Golden State will be more of the same. They will try to capitalize on the power of now, the lingering emotions of guilt and failure that you’ve been dealing with since your first season with the Los Angeles Lakers ended in a first round sweep.
But please Dwight, don’t let the results of one year, dictate where you’ll sign for the next five. We all make decisions in life as human beings. I made a decision tonight to write you a letter because you’re the most important player on my favorite basketball team. Tomorrow, businessmen all around the globe will make the decision on whom and what they would like to invest their millions of dollars in. Somewhere in the world, a guy is contemplating if he should propose to his girlfriend of four years. And you will decide where you want to play basketball come this October in the upcoming week.
At the core of every decision, no matter how big or small, lies the question: what do you want to do with your life.
Italian philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli, once wrote the following: “this gives rise to an argument whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the opposite. The answer is that one would like to be both but since it is difficult to combine the two, one of the two has to make way for the other.”
You’ve predicated your nine year NBA career on being loved. You smile more often on the court than some people breathe. You supposedly waived the early termination option of your contract with Orlando just before the 2012 trade deadline because you were influenced by what Magic fans were tweeting you. For someone who lives to be loved, Lakers Nation didn’t appeal to you on your maiden voyage, I get that.
But at some point you have to make a transition into someone who is feared more so than he is loved if a championship is what you’re truly after. The big man who led the franchise to three consecutive championships a decade ago also began his career as a goof ball who moved to Los Angeles to pursue his rap and movie career, the difference between you and him is that once he stepped between the lines he became a monster, while you remain the same person on and off the court.
I know you love Disney movies, so let me try to relate to you through one of those.
Have you watched Monsters University, Dwight?
You’re a lot like James P. “Sulley” Sullivan. In the movie, Sulley shows up to Scare school and expects everything to be handed to him because he comes from a long lineage of “scarers”. He has a copious amount of natural talent but as the movie progresses his sidekick, the much less intimidating Mike Wazowski, slowly overtakes Sully by plying his craft night in and night out and learning various scare techniques. Reminds you a little bit of you and Kobe doesn’t it?
Near the end of the film, Mike finds Sulley sulking by a lake and the two talk it out to discover that they are not that different after all; in fact, the two of them need one another to succeed as one’s strengths masked the other’s weaknesses.
I don’t want to spoil the ending for you in case you haven’t seen it (you really it should, it’s almost as good as Finding Nemo), but I hope I’m getting through to you.
Like Sulley, by virtue of becoming a Lakers’ center, you inherited a burden of responsibility to not only to be good, but to be great. And that can be overwhelming.
But understand we’re not expecting you to be George Mikan or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain or Shaq. We just want you to be Dwight.
With you in tow, the Lakers will be able to lure a superstar of your choice to become your new sidekick in the summer of 2014 through free agency. A year or two from now, the franchise will be yours as Kobe/Mike Wazowski will be retired. In effect, the Lakers will be able to offer you everything any other team can but just in the entertainment Mecca of North America (and an extra 30 million but who’s counting).
From what I gather, what you’re afraid of most is the inability to live up to expectation. Let me tell you something, Dwight. Even if you sign with Houston, expectation won’t escape you; they’ve also had a decorated center in their franchise’s history who has accomplished more than you have, his name is Hakeem Olajuwon.
So, you can stay in Los Angeles, embrace what’s expected of you and cement your place in the history books as the man who successfully took the baton from George, Kareem, Wilt and Shaq. Or you can go ahead flee to the Houston, where they’ve won only two playoff series in the last 18 years.
The choice is ultimately yours.
Every decision is met with a consequence. I think it’s time for you to decide what’s more important to you: to be loved or feared. Just know that wherever you decide to sign, you won’t be able to be loved by everyone, but to be the most feared big man in the league since Shaq is something no one will ever be able to take away from you.
Good luck to you Dwight, I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.
President of the Disgruntled Fans Association