When we were in the middle of Dwight Howard’s will-he-won’t-he-didn’t-he-?-no-wait-he-didn’t-cool-sparkly-jeans-now-he’s-injured-and-out-for-the-playoffs disaster of a 2011-12 season, people couldn’t help but wondering whether what Dwight was doing to the Magic was worse than what LeBron James did to the Cavaliers. On one hand, you have a guy going on TV to announce he wanted to play basketball with his friends. On the other hand, you have a guy who couldn’t decide what he wanted to do and didn’t want to make anyone mad. Either way you choose, it’s like picking your favorite 8-year-old mindset.
Nonetheless, there were mistakes made by both guys. And that’s fine, except one guy had nearly two years to learn from the mistakes of the other, which is exactly what Dwight Howard is saying he wishes he would have done. From ESPN:
“That’s one of the lessons that I learned, you know. I can’t make everybody happy,” Howard told Bucher, in an interview for ESPN’s “Sunday Conversation.”
“And it was a tug of war between my feelings and the fans and everybody else and their feelings and what happened to LeBron. And I saw him — everybody hated him for leaving Cleveland and what he did,” Howard said of LeBron James’ free-agent move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat in 2010. “I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy. And that was a valuable lesson for me, you know.
“I can’t make everybody happy.”
Here’s that passage interpreted — “I wanted to be traded, but I opted-in to my contract because I was scared people would be mad at me.” That’s a pretty bold admission, even though we all knew that was exactly what was happening. At least Dwight can finally be honest enough to admit he was scared of being booed, though he should have had the foresight to understand that dragging things out would only make it worse. He should have known he couldn’t have it both ways. There’s no possible world where you can be beloved by fans while also trying to weasel your way out of their favorite team. It’s like he only saw that people hated LeBron and not why people hated LeBron.
It also really sounds like he regrets waiving that opt-out clause during last season’s trade deadline, but Dwight says that isn’t the case.
“I don’t have any regrets, you know. I think everything happened the way that it was meant to happen,” Howard said Saturday in an interview with ESPN The Magazine senior writer Ric Bucher. “I really just wish some of the lies and some of the things being said didn’t come out the way it did, you know.”
Either Dwight really learned a lot and enjoyed playing those 10 post-deadline games he spent with the Magic before finally shutting things down and missing the playoffs to undergo back surgery — something that made some people like him even less, even though his injury was totally legit — or Dwight doesn’t know what “regret” means. Because he’s also saying that he learned you can’t make everybody happy, and he’s saying that in the context of why he signed on for another half-season with the Magic. And it sure sounds like he’s saying he’d do things differently if he had the chance. That is a roundabout definition of regret, if you ask me.
But whatever. The main thing is that Dwight finally said something we’ve always known to be true: “I wanted everybody to love me.” That is the thing that matters most to Dwight Howard and that’s why last year was so stupid. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles playing on a team that a lot of people hate, alongside a player who’s been hated almost his entire career. Is he the kind of player that wants to prove how good he really is, just to shut people up? Or is the kind of guy who’s going to keep worrying about making everybody happy and being the fun-loving guy everyone fell for back in the 2008 dunk contest? That’s going to be one of the biggest, most interesting questions of this coming seasons and that’s why I’m so excited. Hurry up and get here, NBA.