In the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard became persona-non-grata in Los Angeles after he decided to leave the Lakers in free agency. After a challenging season that effectively ended when Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles, Howard opted to move on, and in the process, became a villain to Lakers fans.
That sentiment festered for years, with Howard receiving a chorus of boos every time he set foot in the Staples Center.
All of that changed this season.
After being waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, Howard had an opportunity to re-join the Lakers after an injury to DeMarcus Cousins left them needing another center.
As Howard explained to teammate Jared Dudley in an interview on Instagram Live, just weeks prior to the Lakers offer coming around he had made the decision that he needed to move on from ill-will that existed between him and Los Angeles, deciding that forgiveness was the best path forward and realizing that he had made some mistakes.
Thus, when the Lakers’ roster spot came open, Howard jumped at the chance. He also committed himself to be a role player and doing whatever the team asked of him, whether that was running the floor, being on the bench, or even just helping LeBron James with his pre-game powder toss.
Howard was determined to make the most of it and enjoy every moment, and that mindset has paid major dividends. He has become an integral piece of the Lakers, using his rebounding, defense, and physical presence to frustrate opponents.
Howard has partnered with JaVale McGee to form a two-headed monster at the center position, with both players willing to sacrifice their own touches and minutes if it will help the team.
It’s been a long road, but Howard’s journey back to Los Angeles has been one of the feel-good stories of the season.