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An overwhelming majority of the time, the major market teams in the NBA have a distinct advantage when it comes to signing free agents. From the glitzy appeal of living in one of the world’s great cities to the lure of adding to the history of a storied franchise to the deep pockets that allow regular payment of the league’s increasingly expensive luxury task, all systems are usually a go in New York, Chicago, Miami, Boston and Los Angeles, which is why, down to the bitter end, many NBA observers thought Dwight Howard would return to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Beyond the incredible weather, the world class nightlife, the movie star appeal of Hollywood and the incredible fan support, the Lakers were in a position to offer thirty million dollars more than the Houston Rockets. They were in a position to offer one of the two most successful franchises in NBA history, and they were in a position to offer Howard the chance to undo all the negativity of the prior season. For most free agents, that package would have been more than enough, but Dwight Howard just isn’t your typical NBA superstar. In fact, being a major market actually worked against Los Angeles’ chances.
For all his vicious rebounds and hard fouls, Howard is a man who likes to be liked. He’s a man who likes to have fun and likes to be around a group of guys he cares about. He wants to be a jokester, and he wants to keep things light. He wants to show up for work, hopefully win and then have a few laughs, win or lose, and that proved to be impossible in Los Angeles. Thanks to the almost otherworldly intenseness of Kobe Bryant and the nagging glare of local reporters who constantly pick at even the smallest imperfections, he was never able to relax and be himself. He was never able to really feel liked, and a strong case could be made that no star player in the NBA cares more about being liked than Howard.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at D12’s Twitter…
That’s right. Dwight follows 7,985 people. That’s not a pretty high number or even an extremely high number. That is a what-in-the-fuck number? I don't follow a single person that follows that many people, and I'm not sure I follow anyone who follows anyone that follows that many people. From reporters to fellow teammates to random fans, he apparently spreads his net as wide as possible, way wider than every other high end basketball player in America. In fact, Howard follows more than twice as many people on Twitter than the following six NBA stars combined. Take a look…
So, why the hell would a person want to follow almost 8,000 people on Twitter when he probably doesn’t even know 8,000 people total? It’s an almost pathological need to be liked and feel appreciated. In fact, while the above basketball players frequently try to drown out the noise and distance themselves from the rest of the world in order to focus on their craft, Howard, in contrast, wants to be a man of the people, to be cared about and to be loved. He wants to be a star that uses good vibes and high fives to fuel himself rather than hate or aggression, which is why, despite all of his problems with the Lakers, it was apparently still difficult for him to admit his plan.
Yes, Houston is a very good basketball situation for Dwight. Their core is young. They should be a threat for years to come, but the Lakers are always a threat too. After next year, they’ll have millions of dollars in cap room, and unlike Dwight, they’ll be the first choice for the majority of free agents. So, while Howard might tell the world his choice had everything to do with basketball, the truth more than likely is at least vaguely related to his personality—and his Twitter account.
As for Kobe, here’s what his Twitter account looked like prior to Dwight’s decision to bolt…
And here’s what it looks like now…
That’s right. He dropped Howard immediately after the star center decided Houston was the better alternative. Unlike his former teammate, Kobe has no problem operating on hatefulness and spite. And why should he? That intense anger has won him five titles.
Maybe Dwight’s smile will win him one in Houston. Maybe he’ll finally get to see his thousands of follows all pat him on the back in unison. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see because we all know he's not changing.