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Dwight David Howard (born December 8, 1985), nicknamed "Superman", is an Americanmarker basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Howard, who usually plays center but can also play power forward, had an outstanding high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. He chose to forgo college and entered the 2004 NBA Draft, and was selected first overall by the Magic. A three-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA team selection, two-time All-Defensive member, and the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, Howard has been ranked consistently as one of the best in the league in field goal percentage and rebounds, and has set numerous league records. He has led the Magic to two division titles and one conference title, and he was the winner of the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In the 2008 Olympics, he was the starting center for Team USA, which went on to win the gold medal. Off the court, Howard is a devout Christian who contributes substantially to philanthropic causes.

Early life

Howard was born in Atlantamarker, Georgia to Dwight Sr. and Sheryl Howard and into a family with strong athletic connections. His father is a Georgia State Trooper and serves as Athletic Director of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, a private academy with one of the best high school basketball programs in the country, while his mother played on the inaugural women's basketball team at Morris Brown College. A devout Christian since his youth, Howard became serious about basketball around the age of nine; when in the eighth grade, he resolved to be selected as the number one pick in the NBA Draft one day. Despite his large frame, Howard was quick and versatile enough to play the guard position. He elected to attend Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy for high school, and in his four years he played mostly as power forward, averaging 16.6 points per game (ppg), 13.4 rebounds per game (rpg) and 6.3 blocks per game in 129 appearances. As a senior, Howard led his team to the 2004 state title. He averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, eight blocks and 3.5 assists per game. That same year, Howard was widely recognized as the best American high school basketball player, and he was awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award, the Morgan Wootten High School Player of the Year Award, Gatorade National Player of the Year and the McDonald's National High School Player of the Year honor. He was also co-MVP (with J. R. Smith) of the McDonald's High School All-American Game that year.

NBA career

Early years

Following his high school successes, Howard chose to forego college and declared for the 2004 NBA Draft—a decision partly inspired by his idol Kevin Garnett who had done the same in 1995—where the Orlando Magic selected him first overall over UConnmarker senior Emeka Okafor. He took the number 12 for his jersey, in part because it was the reverse of Garnett's 21 when he played for Minnesota. Howard joined a depleted Magic squad that had finished with only 21 victories the previous season; further, the club had just lost perennial NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. Howard, however, made an immediate impact. He finished his rookie season with an average of 12.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg, setting several NBA records in the process. He became the youngest player in NBA history to average a double double in the regular season. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 10.0 rebounds in a season and youngest NBA player ever to record at least 20 rebounds in a game. Howard's importance to the Magic was highlighted when he became the first player in NBA history directly out of high school to start all 82 games during his rookie season. For his efforts, he was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Got Milk? Rookie Challenge, and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team. He also finished third to fellow center Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats and guard Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls for the Rookie of the Year award.

Howard reported to camp for his second NBA campaign having added 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season. Orlando coach Brian Hill—responsible for grooming former Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal—decided that Howard should be converted into a full-fledged center. Hill identified two areas where Howard needed to improve: his post-up game, and his defense. He exerted extra pressure on Howard, saying that the Magic would need him to emerge as a force in the middle before the team had a chance at the playoffs. Even though the big man played tentatively at times, he was able to build on his strong rookie year with an impressive sophomore season. On 15 November 2005, in a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard scored 21 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the youngest player ever to score 20 or more points and gather 20 or more rebounds in the same game. He was selected to play on the Sophomore Team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge during the All-Star break, and on 15 April 2006, he recorded a career-high 26 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers; his 28 points in that game also brought him close to an NBA rarity, a 30–30 game. Overall, he averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and double doubles; and sixth in field goal percentage. Despite Howard's improvement, the Magic finished the season with a 36–46 win-loss record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season since Howard's arrival.

All-Star

Howard took another step forward as the franchise player for Orlando in the 2006–07 season, and for the third consecutive season he played in all 82 regular season games. On 1 February 2007, he received his first NBA All-Star selection as a reserve on the Eastern Conference squad for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Howard finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Less than a week later, he recorded a career-high 32 points against the Toronto Raptors. As the push for playoff spots intensified, Howard was instrumental, recording another career-high 35 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on 14 April 2007. Under his leadership, the Magic qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2003 as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the Magic were swept by the eventual Eastern Conference finalist Detroit Pistons in the first round. Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and finished first in the NBA in total rebounds, second in field goal percentage, and ninth in blocks. He was further recognized as one of the best players in the league when he was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006–07 campaign.

Howard continued posting impressive numbers in the 2007–08 season; with free agent Rashard Lewis added to the ranks alongisde Hedo Türkoğlu to provide an extra offensive spark, this was the Magic's best season yet. Howard's strong and consistent play ensured that he was named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and by the time the mid-season break arrived, he was leading the league in double doubles (he concluded the season with a league-high 69) and had recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game on five occasions (eight by the season's end). On 16 February 2008, he won the 2008 NBA slam dunk contest by receiving 78% of the fan's votes via text messaging or online voting; in that contest, he performed a series of innovative dunks said to have rejuvenated the contest, including donning a Superman cape for one of the dunks. Howard led the Magic to their first division title in 12 years and to the third seed for the 2008 NBA Playoffs, and in the first-round match-up against the Toronto Raptors, Howard's dominance (three 20 point/20 rebound games) and point guard Jameer Nelson's strong play ensured that Orlando prevailed over five games. Howard's series total of 91 rebounds was also greater than the total rebounds collected by the entire Toronto frontcourt. In the next round against the Pistons, the Magic lost the first two road games before Howard's 20 point/12 rebound performance in Game 3 salvaged a home win. In that same week, the center was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time, and subsequently, the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Detroit played without their star point guard Chauncey Billups for Games 4 and 5, but Orlando was unable to capitalize on that and lost the series 4–1 to the veteran playoffs team.

Leader of consecutive division champions

The 2008–09 campaign began well for Howard. Ten games into the season, the center was leading the league in blocks per game (4.2) and even recorded his first triple-double: 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks. At the halfway point of the season, Howard was leading the league in rebounds and blocks, and was among the league leaders in field goal percentage. He garnered a record 3.1 million votes to earn the starting berth on the Eastern Conference team for the 2009 NBA All-Star game. On 25 March 2009, Howard led Orlando to its second straight Southeast Division title with 11 games of the regular season left to play, and eventually the third seed for the 2009 NBA Playoffs with a 59–23 record. On 21 April 2009, he became the youngest player ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, achieving a goal he had set for himself before the start of the season. The Magic went into the playoffs without its injured starting point guard Jameer Nelson, and in the first round against the 76ers, Howard recorded 24 points and 24 rebounds in Game 5 to give Orlando a 3–2 lead, before the Magic closed out the series in six games. On 6 May 2009, the center was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, and a week later, to the All-NBA First Team. In the second round of the playoffs against the defending champions Boston, the Magic blew a lead in Game 5 and Howard publicly questioned coach Stan Van Gundy's tactics and said that he should be given the ball more; in Game 6, the center posted 23 points and 22 rebounds to force the series into seven games. The Magic went on to defeat Boston, and then defeated Cleveland—which was led by league MVP LeBron James—4–2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Howard had a playoffs career-high 40 points to go with his 14 rebounds in the deciding Game 6, leading Orlando to its first NBA Finals in 14 years. The Los Angeles Lakers took the first two home games to establish a 2–0 lead in the Finals, before a home win by the Magic brought the score to 2–1. In Game 4, despite Howard putting up 21 rebounds and a Finals-record of 9 blocks in a game, the Magic lost in overtime. The Lakers went on to win Game 5, and the NBA Finals.

NBA career highlights

Milestones and records
  • Youngest player in NBA history to reach:
    • 3000 rebounds
    • 4000 rebounds
    • 5000 rebounds
  • Youngest player in NBA history to average a double-double
  • Youngest player in NBA history to record 20 rebounds in one game
  • Highest career field goal percentage in All-Star Game history: .810 (17 field goals made of 21 attempts)
  • Youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding at 22 years, 130 days (14.2 rebounds per game throughout 2007–08 season)
  • Youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks at 23 years, 128 days (2.9 blocks per game throughout 2008–09 season)
  • NBA Finals record (in a game) 9 blocks, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 11 June 2009


Titles and accolades
  • Eastern Conference Champions: 2009
  • Southeast Division Champions: 2008, 2009
  • NBA All-Star: 2007, 2008, 2009
  • All-NBA First Team: 2008, 2009
  • All-NBA Third Team: 2007
  • NBA All-Defensive First Team: 2009
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team: 2008
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team: 2005
  • NBA Slam Dunk Champion: 2008; runner-up in 2009
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year: 2009
  • Conference Player of the Week: November 26, 2006; November 18, 2007; December 2, 2007; March 30, 2009
  • Conference Player of the Month: April 2006; November 2006; November 2007; December 2007


NBA career statistics

Correct as of 16 June 2009


Regular season

2004–05
Orlando
82 82 32.6 .520 .000 .671 10.0 .9 .9 1.7 12.0
2005–06
Orlando
82 81 36.8 .531 .000 .595 12.5 1.5 .8 1.4 15.8
2006–07
Orlando
82 82 36.9 .603 .500 .586 12.3 1.9 .9 1.9 17.6
2007–08
Orlando
82 82 37.7 .599 .000 .590 14.2 1.3 .9 2.2 20.7
2008–09
Orlando
79 79 35.7 .568 .000 .601 13.8 1.4 1.0 2.9 20.6
Career
407 406 35.9 .568 .083 .601 12.5 1.4 .9 2.0 17.3
All-Star
3 2 26.3 .688 .000 .385 10.0 1.3 1.3 1.7 16.3

Playoffs

2006–07
Orlando
4 4 41.8 .548 .000 .455 14.8 1.8 .5 1.0 15.3
2007–08
Orlando
10 10 42.1 .581 .000 .542 15.8 .9 .8 3.4 18.9
2008–09
Orlando
23 23 39.3 .601 .000 .636 15.3 1.9 .9 2.6 20.3
Career
37 37 40.3 .590 .000 .596 15.4 1.6 .8 2.6 19.4

United States national team

Howard at the 2008 Olympics
Howard was named on 5 March 2006 to the 2006–2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team program. As the team's regular starting center, he helped lead the team to a 5–0 record during its pre-World Championship tour, and subsequently helped the team win the bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. During the FIBA Americas Championship 2007, Howard was on the team which won its first nine games en route to qualifying for the finals and a spot for the 2008 Olympics. He started in eight of those nine games, averaging 8.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg and led the team in shooting .778 from the field. In the finals, he made all seven of his shots and scored 20 points as the USA defeated Argentina to win the gold medal.

On 23 June 2008, Howard was named as one of the members of the 12-man squad representing the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. With Howard starting as center, Team USA won all of its games en route to the gold medal, breaking their drought of gold medals dating back to the 2000 Olympics. Howard averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the tournament.

Player profile

Howard is considered the "franchise player" of the Magic. He is one of the NBA's best rebounders (his 14.2 rebounds per game in 2007–08 meant he became the NBA's youngest rebound champion); in a game against the Golden State Warriors on 10 January 2007, his 25 rebounds for the Magic outnumbered the total number of boards grabbed by the starting five of the Warriors. Howard's rebounding is in part facilitated by his extraordinary athleticism; his vertical leap is estimated at almost 40 inches, rare for a player of his size (6'11", 265 pounds). He demonstrated this skill memorably in the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA All-Star Weekend, during which he completed an alley oop dunk from teammate Jameer Nelson and slapped a sticker onto the backboard which reached . The sticker showed an image of his own smiling face with a handwritten "All things through Christ Phil: 4:13," a paraphrase of Philippians 4:13. As of April 2009, Howard's 12.5 rebounds per game (in the regular season) places him 14th in NBA all-time leaders. The center has also remained largely injury-free in his NBA career; he played in 351 consecutive games before missing his first game.

Howard's abilities and powerful physique have drawn attention from fellow NBA All-Stars. Tim Duncan once remarked in 2007: "[Howard] is so developed... He has so much promise and I am glad that I will be out of the league when he is peaking." Kevin Garnett echoed those sentiments: "[Howard] is a freak of nature, man... I was nowhere near that physically talented. I wasn't that gifted, as far as body and physical presence." Subsequent to a game in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala remarked: "It's like he can guard two guys at once. He can guard his guy and the guy coming off the pick-and-roll, which is almost impossible to do... If he gets any more athletic or jumps any higher, they're going to have to change the rules." As early as December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA.

While many sports pundits have been rating Howard as one of the top young prospects in the NBA since 2006, Howard has some weaknesses in his game. Offensively, his shooting range remains limited; he is also mistake-prone, having led the NBA in total number of turnovers in the 2006–07 season. Like many centers, he has a low free throw conversion percentage. As a result, he is a target of the so-called Hack-a-Shaq defense. During the 2007–08 regular season, Howard led the NBA with 897 free throw attempts while shooting only 59% from the free throw line. Also in that season, outside of layups and dunks, his shooting percentage was only 31.6%.

Personal life

Howard has stated he believes in reaching out to his community and fans and thus contributes substantially in the field of philanthropy. An avid listener of Gospel music, he attends the Fellowship of Faith Church when he is back home in Atlanta and is involved and active with the youth programs at the church. Together with his parents, Howard also established the Dwight D. Howard Foundation Inc. in 2004. The Foundation provides scholarships for students who want to attend his alma mater, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and grants to Lovell Elementary School and Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Floridamarker. The Foundation also organizes summer basketball camps for boys and girls, and together with high school and college coaches and players, fellow NBA players are invited to be on hand at the camp. For his contributions in the Central Florida community, Howard received in 2005 the Rich and Helen De Vos Community Enrichment Award. Within the NBA itself, Howard has participated in several NBA "Read to Achieve" assemblies encouraging children to make reading a priority.

Elsewhere, Howard appeared as a special guest on an episode of the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired 2 April 2006, in which Ty Pennington and his team built a new home and ministry offices for Sadie Holmes, who operates a social services ministry in the Orlando area.

Howard and Royce Reed, a former dancer for the team, have a son Braylon.

Notes

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