According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, Dwight Howard maintains that he and Kobe Bryant have always had a solid relationship, but–contrary to public belief–it’s actually grown this season.
Apparently, it has strengthened following the All-Star break as Howard confided in Bryant about one of his fears:
“I told him [Bryant]: ‘I’m afraid to miss. When I get out there, I don’t want to miss, and I end up missing.’ And he was like: ‘You know what? Shoot 1,000 jumpshots a day. You’re going to miss a lot of those shots. But that’s OK. Because you’re teaching yourself it’s OK to miss.”
“Now I see it. He gets out there and he might miss a couple 3s, but then he’ll make nine in a row. You see that and it just kind of gives you more inspiration.”
Certainly watching Kobe drain three clutch three-pointers on Friday night against the Toronto Raptors much have been even more inspiring.
Howard also admitted that when he first came to Los Angeles, he tried to be someone he’s not by shutting everyone out and not talking to anybody. However, at the All-Star break, he thought long and hard about it and decided that he needed to go back to being himself and mature as a person in order to pursue winning a championship:
“I thought about it and said, ‘No, I can’t change. I’ve got to mature in certain areas,’ and I think I have. But I can’t change who I am.”
When did that change take place?
“At the All-Star break. I just thought about what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and I really want to win a championship. That’s the reason why I’m in LA.”
Additionally, Howard says he’s learned a lot from playing with Kobe Bryant as well; especially with regards to playing on a team with such high expectations and high stakes:
“It’s going to make me a better man and a better player from watching Kobe.”
Playing in Los Angeles, for a franchise with expectations as high as the Lakers, is “a lot different,” Howard said.
“Besides just the expectations, in games, I mess up and there’s somebody in the crowd saying something and I’m ready to snap at ’em. That’s not what we’re supposed to do.”
“But you look at a guy like Kobe and he doesn’t care about nothing but going out there and playing hard. That’s a lesson a lot of us have to learn — especially young guys.”
It’s definitely an encouraging sign to see that not only is Howard getting along with Bryant despite multiple reports early in the season, but that he’s truly taking notes on how one of the greatest player of all time carries himself.
Certainly, Howard will one day be a Hall-of-Famer, but playing alongside someone as passionate and truly incredible as Kobe Bryant should definitely improve the big man’s approach to the game in many areas.