Magic Johnson Crushed and Inspired Dwight Howard’s NBA Dreams in 10th Grade

Dwight Howard is moving through the back end of his playing days as a critical piece to the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard has strung together an impressive career that should land him in the Hall of Fame. However, Lakers great Magic Johnson nearly crushed the star big man’s NBA dreams before it ever began.

Dwight Howard’s illustrious NBA career

Howard entered the NBA as a much-hyped high school talent, where he quickly filled the massive expectations of a No. 1 overall pick.

He became the central driving force as one of the league’s best talents while leading the Orlando Magic into becoming a playoff constant. He earned three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, received five consecutive All-NBA First Team selections, garnered eight All-Star game selections and four straight All-Defensive First Team nods.

Howard guided the Magic to five consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals. His career took a different trajectory after he departed from Orlando as nagging back injuries impacted his performance and availability.

The 35-year-old reignited himself in his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. He embraced a bench role where he played a pivotal part in guiding the franchise to the 2020 NBA title. However, years before he entered the league, he received a reality check from a former Lakers great.

Magic Johnson crushed and inspired Dwight Howard’s NBA dreams in 10th grade

As Howard moves through his 18th season, he remains motivated to prove he’s still a highly effective player despite being at the tail end of his career.

A couple of years before he entered the NBA straight out of high school, he had the rare opportunity to meet former Lakers great Magic Johnson. However, the meeting didn’t exactly go as anticipated as the Hall of Fame point guard told Howard he didn’t have the size to play in the league.

“I met him in the 10th grade and he told me I was going to make it to the NBA,” Howard said during an interview on Hood Stocks in October. “So it kind of motivated me. He said, ‘You’re not going to make it to the NBA. You’re too small. You ain’t got the size.’ All that. I just took that as motivation.

“He was a big inspiration to me despite him telling me I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t take that as a negative. I took as you know what I am going to work my ass off because I am supposed to make it.”

Instead of sulking, Howard took the criticism in stride, becoming the nation’s best high school talent. In his senior year, he led Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy to a 31-2 record and the 2004 state title behind averaging 25.0 points, 18.0 rebounds, and 8.1 blocks. His stellar play earned him the Naismith Prep Player of the Year award and Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Howard then entered the 2004 NBA draft, where the Magic selected him with the first overall pick. Throughout his career, he has bulked up physically through his work in the weight room while establishing himself as one of the top big men of his generation.

Beyond that, Howard used Johnson’s doubt to fuel his internal drive to push himself to construct a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

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As Howard inches closer to the finish line of his illustrious NBA career, he continues to add to his resume.

The 35-year-old is in his third stint with the Lakers, where he’s hoping to secure his second NBA title. He’s now fully embraced his reduced role while remaining a prominent frontcourt piece. Howard isn’t the player he once was, but he provides rim protector and a strong finisher at the rim.

In 21 games played, he’s averaging 5.2 points and 5.3 rebounds on 65.0% shooting from the floor in 15.0 minutes per contest. His role has fluctuated as head coach Frank Vogel figures out the lineup rotations, but he will be a pivotal piece in the Lakers’ push toward championship contention.

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