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Dwight Howard vs. The Centers of the Past

  • Jason Whitney

The physical specimen that makes up Dwight Howard is by most people’s account, the best center in the game today. However, as I’ve frequently mentioned, I don’t personally believe Dwight is as good as our eyes and minds have allowed us to believe. In fact if you ask many analysts, general observers of the game, they will tell you that Andrew Bynum actually plays the position better. I’m not ready to agree with that proclamation, but it’s worth noting. Regardless, Dwight Howard has played in an era of 6’10” centers, and offenses predicated around 6’8″ swing guys that can launch threes and get down the court. Not exactly your Dad’s era of centers.


Lets break down Dwight Howard and the great centers of the past.

Offensive Game:

Dwight’s offensive game has been mostly…offensive to be honest. Sure, he’s compiled a few moves over the past seven years he’s been in the league, but I can name you a plethora of guards that have better post moves than the aforementioned Dwight Howard. Dwight still gets many of his points off put back dunks, and ally oops. Telling me he’s just the baddest dude in the neighborhood in terms of height, weight, and extreme athleticism.

It’s good to see the big man start to develop a hook shot, while piggybacking the jump hook from that. However that’s about it, as I don’t see much to be glamoured about in terms of footwork and skill. Note to Dwight: Learn how to pivot, sweep, and step through. Even his drop step isn’t much of a factor half the time. Sure occasionally we see him spin baseline for power dunk, or get deep enough in the post that he dunks on whomever, but he needs to learn and think the center position offensively, while taking advantage of these moves more regularly.

Centers of the past era:

This one is a no brainer. The centers of the past like Ewing, Olajuwon, Shaq, Robinson, Kareem, Walton, I’ll even throw in the seven-foot Tim Duncan had an offensive game that actually was predicated on skill. Sky hooks, fade away jumpers, even spotting up and banking one-off the glass made up these legendary players repertoire.

Winner: Centers of the past

Defensive Game:

Dwight’s defensive game in my opinion is as good as it gets in any era. Being blessed with incredible, God-given athleticism obviously plays a major factor in his defensive dominance. For his career, he averages 2.2 blocks per game and nearly 13 boards per contest. That is saying something regardless of what era he plays in. You have to WANT to play defense and in this new era of all offense and showboating that is saying something.

Dwight has already been a 4-time All Defensive team member, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient. Did I mention he just turned 26 years old? Dwight is no doubt going to go down as one of the best defensive players ever and break several records. A true tribute of his defensive prowess. The counter to this statement would be Howard going up against smaller players routinely resulting in him getting many more blocks and rebounds. Still I believe he’d be dominant in any era.

Centers of the past era:

Every center of the past era played tough, hard nose, physical defense. It was just a staple of the past era and what all the great legendary players took pride in. A far cry from today’s players. Let’s not forget the physical era took an extra toll on the players bodies, while the dieting, workouts, training staffs are not what they are today. However, the physical play also allows for more blocks, steals, and even boards when you can use your body to create these opportunities.

This is a tough decision as I feel Dwight’s best attribute, had he played in the past era, would have been his defense. Howard’s rebounding numbers could stick with the past greats, however once again Dwight plays against under sized centers and players that wouldn’t even make the second team rotations from yesteryear. He should be getting 15-20 rebounds a game.

What gives the edge to the centers of the past for me is that every one of those guys I named had multiple seasons where they averaged at least 3 blocks per game. In fact, most had at least one season of four blocks per game! Even the lazy Shaquille O’Neal had a season of at least three blocks per game. Dwight Howard has yet to reach the three blocks per game plateau.

Winner: Slightly to the centers of the past era


It’s no secret Howard is playing in an era that is not exactly favorable to the center position. I’m not in love with his attitude either. I feel sorry for the fans in Orlando, as they are likely in their last month of watching yet another feature Hall of Famer jet their team for greener pastures. You’d never see this kind of attitude displayed by the legends of the past. Just another reason this era of basketball hurts the game. Star players holding their teams hostage just seems unfair.

With that said, it still shouldn’t hurt Howard’s value to what he’s brought to the game. It’s not his fault he plays in this era of under sized centers, and shortage of talented big men. I personally feel Dwight should be putting up numbers like 25-30 points per game and close to 18-20 rebounds per game while swatting four to five shots per game. No reason why he shouldn’t be.

I feel that any of the aforementioned centers of the past would have put up bigger numbers than Howard had they played in this era. Dwight has a long way to go in many areas including maturity. I also think that had Dwight played in any of the past eras, he may at best, be a center comparable to Dikembi Mutombo. Nothing to hang your head about, but comparable as in his ceiling. I’d still take Mutombo and any of the past centers over Howard any day of the week.

Winner: Hands down, centers of the past

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