In the annual NBA General Manager Poll, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was named the best center (96 percent) and best defensive player (79 percent) in the league. As things stand right now, it’d be hard to argue with that assessment. Dwight is a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, four-time All-NBA Team member, an Olympic Gold Medalist and the league’s leading rebounder and shot blocker for the past two seasons. He also has an NBA Finals appearance under his belt, guiding the 2008-2009 Magic to an Eastern Conference Championship. However, the general consensus on Dwight is that while he’s great, he can be better. Dwight hears the critics, and took steps to silence them this summer.
Most of the criticism surrounding Dwight’s game is that he’s not polished enough on offense. People believe that his footwork and arsenal of offensive post moves don’t measure up to the NBA’s all-time great centers. So, in an effort to make improvements on the offensive side of the ball, Dwight scheduled summer training sessions with the man who is generally regarded as the greatest all-time center in regards to footwork and post moves – Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon.
In the video below, you’ll see Olajuwon (who looks like he could throw a uniform on today and still be a top-10 center) helping Dwight fine-tune certain elements of his post offense. Howard notes that he and Hakeem are similar in the fact that they’re both undersized centers who have (or had) advantages in terms of speed and athleticism. During a media session at his annual basketball camp for children this summer, Dwight said the most important thing he learned from Hakeem is to not be afraid to make mistakes on the court. He likened the situation to the mentality of a ninja – no hesitation, just actions.
Where exactly did this relationship begin? Flash back to the 2010 NBA Playoffs in May. The Orlando Magic were down 0-3 to the Boston Celtics and on the verge of an embarrassing sweep. Dwight was coming off what may have been his worst performance of the season, a seven-point, seven-rebound effort in game three. Prior to game four, Howard gets a call from Hakeem, offering some bits of wisdom and an emotional pick-me-up. The result was a 32-point, 16-rebound effort from Howard in a Magic win to avoid the sweep. Will personal training sessions between Dwight and Hakeem spell trouble for the rest of the league? We’ll find out soon.