If there is a blueprint for how not to break up with your franchise, LeBron James won the patent with “The Decision” in the summer of 2010.
Dwight Howard added an addendum this year with his on again, off again falling out in Orlando. After a number of foiled trade attempts, the Magic’s mess culminated in Howard’s move to Los Angeles and the construction of another star-studded squad loaded for a title run.
Howard discussed his tumultuous year during ESPN’s “Sunday Conversation” with Ric Bucher, explaining that while he was frustrated by some of the media reports during the months-long saga, he has no regrets.
But like James, Howard, who publicly waffled between wanting out of Orlando and wanting to remain to lead the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004, understands his public image took a serious hit.
“That’s one of the lessons that I learned, you know. I can’t make everybody happy. 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. 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.”
No kidding. James learned that lesson the hard way, instantly going from one of the league’s most celebrated budding stars to its biggest villain. But while Cleveland may never welcome James home with open arms, Miami’s NBA championship helped vindicate his decision.
By joining a Lakers team that already features Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and veteran all-star Steve Nash at the point, Howard instantly upgraded his situation from lone star on a rebuilding team to key cog on a serious title contender.
If the Lakers can cash in and win it all in the next year or two, Howard’s choice to force the Magic to ship him out of town will have paid off. And if the Lakers fail? Well, then at least those heartbroken fans in Orlando will find some measure of solace.