Not since LeBron James’ decision to take his talents to South Beach had we waited for a verdict with such great anticipation. What would Dwight Howard do? Would he actually walk away from La La Land? Would he leave the approximately 30 million extra dollars on the table? Historically speaking, nobody does that. This wasn’t Cleveland. But alas, Superman is now “Rocketman”.
But was this such a shock? Many would later report that the writing was on the wall. Dwight was “never really a Laker”. It was never a good fit.
Never mind the fact that he claimed he wouldn’t resign in LA if traded there and all his apprehension about playing with Kobe and most likely not embracing the idea of being option #3, behind Pau Gasol as well.
But in retrospect, was the outcome really Dwight’s decision? If you had the luxury of choosing your next employer, knowing that they had to pitch to you and sell you on why you would want to work for them, don’t you think you might have a few demands, besides a pay raise?
Dwight wanted to play for Phil Jackson. The Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni. Strike one. Dwight wanted a leadership role on the team. He was overlooked. Strike two. He wanted to be the new face of the franchise. Kobe made it clear he intends to stick around. Strike three.
In reality the Lakers were holding all the cards. They just didn’t play their hand right. Here are five reasons why their decision to choose Kobe over Dwight was the wrong one.
5. Age is not just a number. Kobe Bryant will be 35 years old on Friday. In terms of championship contention that pretty much means his window has already closed.
LeBron just won his second title at age 28, Dirk won his at 33, Paul Pierce was 30, Tim Duncan was 31 when he won #4 , Shaq won his fourth and final title at 34, Hakeem “the dream” Olajuwon was 32 when he repeated, Bird won his last at 29, Isiah also 29, and Magic was only 28 when he won #5. All of them were younger than Kobe is now.
Only Michael Jordan won a title at age 35. It was his 6th and final title, but his airness took a break, aka almost two full seasons off to pursue baseball. And lets face it, Kobe is not Michael.
Dwight Howard is only 27. He’s just entering his prime years and still has plenty of room to improve, despite being the most dominant big in the league.
4. Been there done that. If Kobe and Phil couldn’t win a title in 2011, why should anyone believe they could ever win another should there be a third installment, which seems to be the case, inevitably. It would take LeBron, Carmelo and Phil to join Kobe and I’m pretty sure that can’t happen due to “basketball reasons”.
3. Achilles last stand. Even if rupturing his achilles is not a career ending injury for the Black Mamba, there is no doubt, the end is near regardless. Historically speaking, Mamba or not, athletes that suffer that kind of injury are never the same. If ever there was a legitimate reason to amnesty Kobe, as suggested by Dwight’s camp, this was it. After all, it really is a business. Just ask Peyton Manning, former Laker Metta World Peace, and most recently Paul Pierce.
2. Loyalty. The Lakers first and foremost responsibility is to stay loyal to its fans. Nothing beats winning. And yes, not even Kobe is bigger than that. The Lakers faced a similar decision before, but when it came down to it, they stayed true to what was best for the franchise and chose to let Shaq go. If it really came down to choosing Kobe over Dwight, this time their loyalty was in the wrong place. ESPN just projected the Lakers finishing 12th in the West.
1. Nothing lasts forever. Mitch Kupchak said it himself, “It’s a cyclical business we’re in, nothing lasts forever”. Yet management wasn’t ready to let go. Kobe will retire a Laker, but their immediate future, and even the long term are now in question. Dwight Howard is the rarest of commodities. The Lakers had every opportunity to keep him. They could have hired Phil. They could have made him the face of the franchise. And they absolutely would have been able to offer him the most money. But when it came down to it, they just refused to listen. Call it Laker mystique, overconfidence, or even arrogance. I call it stupidity.