USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard has had an emotional season. He returned to the Los Angeles Lakers six years after departing in free agency following his first tenure with the team. He was quickly embraced by fans thanks to his effort on defense and the boards, but once the season was suspended, things got significantly harder for Howard.
Melissa Rios, the mother of his 6-year-old son David, died in March. When social unrest put the return of professional basketball in jeopardy, Howard issued a statement arguing that the NBA season should not resume. He ultimately did decide to play, though, and was rewarded for that by achieving a lifelong dream. Howard is an NBA champion for the first time, and on social media, he delivered a powerful message about fighting through adversary.
“Don’t ever give up on your dreams,” Howard said. “You can f—ing do it. I swear, just keep fighting. I swear to God, don’t ever give up on yourself. Look at this s–t. I’m sorry for cursing to all the kids out there. Bro listen, don’t ever give up on yourself. You’re already a champion.”
The odds of Howard being a meaningful contributor to a championship team, especially a Lakers championship team, were impossibly slim as recently as last summer. His last three teams dumped him after only one season, by most accounts because of immaturity in the locker room. The Brooklyn Nets waived him rather than even keep him on the roster. He played only nine games for the Washington Wizards because of injury. At 34 years old, his athleticism should have declined beyond the point of no return.
Yet Howard, through hard work alone, got himself into good enough shape to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest this season. He became a starter for the Lakers in their last two playoff series. And now, he is a champion. His own journey is the proof behind his words. If he could turn things around and get to this point, so can anyone else.