Why Dwight Howard was a major snub on NBA 75 list — and which players he could have replaced
After the full NBA 75 (well, 76) list was revealed on Thursday night, there seemed to be a common sentiment being shared on Twitter.
“Hey, I’m not a Dwight Howard fan, but come on now.”
The veteran center was arguably the biggest snub on the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team, which was selected by a panel of media members, current and former players, coaches, and team executives. These lists are always highly subjective, but it’s difficult to formulate a reasonable argument as to why Howard didn’t make the cut.
Let’s start with Howard’s resume. He is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time All-Defensive selection, eight-time All-Star, an eight-time All-NBA selection. He has career averages of 16.2 points (58.6 percent shooting), 12.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, but those numbers include the version of Howard that has come off the bench and played limited minutes.
Dwight Howard has more All-NBA selections (8) than any other player left off the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
Howard has as many All-NBA selections as Dave DeBusschere, Kevin McHale, Earl Monroe, Dennis Rodman, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Lenny Wilkens, and James Worthy combined.
During his prime Magic years (2006-07 through 2011-12), Howard posted 20.0 points (59.2 percent shooting), 13.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. He was Orlando’s franchise cornerstone, leading the team to 50-plus wins in four straight regular seasons (2007-08 through 2010-11) and an NBA Finals appearance in 2009. Howard wasn’t just the most dominant big man at the time — he was also a constant part of the NBA MVP discussion, finishing in the top five in MVP voting four times. He was second to only Derrick Rose in 2010-11.
After he left Orlando, Howard was still a force in the paint. He averaged a double-double for 14 consecutive seasons, tied with Charles Barkley and Moses Malone for the longest streak in league history. Remember that 2014 playoff series between the Rockets and Trail Blazers that ended with Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beater? Howard put up a ridiculous 26.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. Houston reached the Western Conference finals the next season, but unfortunately for the Rockets, that was the start of the Warriors’ dynasty.
Even if you want to focus on late-career Howard, it should be noted that he filled an important role on a championship team in 2019-20. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were the most significant pieces on that Lakers roster, but Howard’s willingness to do the dirty work mattered.
Look, putting these lists together is challenging. Some voters may have truly felt that Howard didn’t deserve a spot on the 75th-anniversary team because he is not one of the 75 greatest players of all time. Again, highly subjective.
With that said, it’s hard to imagine that Howard’s reputation didn’t at least enter the minds of the voters on the panel. He left Orlando rather unceremoniously. He clashed with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. James Harden didn’t like him, either. He declared that he wanted to end his career with the Hawks, Hornets, and Wizards, then lasted only one season with each team. He tells incredibly corny jokes. Oh, and he had a dumb beef with Shaquille O’Neal for way too long.
FS1’s Nick Wright put it in basic terms, saying on “First Things First” that the list is “too much like the cool kids’ table at lunch rather than the most prestigious group in NBA history.”
“He didn’t get on the list because Shaq’s made fun of him for a decade and because people don’t like him,” Wright said. “It’s unfair. And that is, without question, the biggest indictment on the list as a whole.”
The rule is that, if you want to put somebody on the list, you have to take someone off. There are a number of players who don’t possess an equal or better resume than Howard, but two selections from the modern era stand out: Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard.
Lillard has been terrific over nearly a decade in Portland. He will likely go down as the greatest Trail Blazer of all time and a Hall of Famer. However, he only has six All-NBA selections to his name at this stage in his career (one First Team, four Second Team, one-Third Team). He has also never reached the NBA Finals. Perhaps voters considered his future production, but as of right now, this is a no-contest in favor of Howard.
The Davis vs. Howard’s argument is more interesting, but it’s one that Howard should still win. Davis will also end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but he can’t currently match what Howard has accomplished. It’s worth pointing out that Davis only won one playoff series with the Pelicans before joining James on the Lakers.
This is not to dismiss Davis or Lillard. They were both candidates worth discussing, and if the league unveils an NBA 100 list one day, they will be on it.
When it comes down to it, though, Howard should have been on this list. He wasn’t — probably because of things that have nothing to do with basketball.