It's not rare for NBA stars to relish all the attention they receive from ESPN and the rest of the sports media, but Dwight Howard isn't the first player to learn the hard way that fans will turn on you for refusing to get out of the spotlight. The length of Howard's saga in Orlando, which dates back to what feels like a decade, had put him in rarified air with LeBron James. His petulant whining, however, combined with James' recent NBA championship, might have vaulted the scorn for Superman past that of The King.
At least with The Decision (which was already two years ago, believe it or not), LeBron knew where he wanted to play. Fans weren't as mad that he left Cleveland as much as the way he did it. Taking more than an hour of ESPN programming for a fluff piece and to announce he'd be taking his talents to South Beach was the ultimate ego move, until now.
Howard has taken advantage of his position as being one of the most dominant big men in the game to hold a small-market team hostage. General manager Otis Smith stepped down and head coach Stan Van Gundy was fired after calling out Howard for demanding his dismissal. Even Howard's big smile couldn't save him from the hot water he got into with fans after denying Van Gundy's whole story.
New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan might be the only good guy in this scenario, even if the amount of pure talent Dwight has will always appeal to fans and other teams. Wednesday, Hennigan refused to deal Howard to the Brooklyn Nets, the only team Howard previously said he'd play for.
The non-move is one that CBS Sports says cost Hennigan and the Magic brass a lot of leverage. Even if it was only to put a check on what looks like one of the league's biggest egos, it was worth it, and now at only 30 years old, Hennigan already has a reputation in the league for playing hardball. He refused to be forced into a lowball deal.
Let's not forget that LeBron might have led the Cavaliers on, but he never gave up his look at free agency and then requested a trade, which Howard has done. Howard's decision to opt in for another year with Orlando looks more and more like a transparent, self-defeating attempt at loyalty.
Since the Brooklyn deal fell apart and the Nets have reportedly signed Brook Lopez, the newest likely suitor for Howard looks to be the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard, who has previously said he wants to go to a team where he can carve out his own legacy, could be an ideal replacement for on-again off-again Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
Bynum is six years younger than Howard, and while he has his own attitude issues, Orlando could be the ideal place for the young center to get a fresh start. Bynum also already has two more championship rings than Howard and at times looks poised enough to take the next step toward superstardom.
It might just be that hating LeBron is getting old. His domination in the playoffs made it even clearer that he was being wasted on a team that wasn't on the league's biggest stage. Now his Decision just looks plain oblivious compared with Howard's attempt at manipulation of his image.