Dwight Howard has often been proclaimed as the best center in the NBA, and his combinations of nightly double-doubles and third row swats make that title difficult to refute. Nonetheless, Howard’s most talented and dominating teammate has recently put the league’s premier big man to a challenge.
In an away game against the Suns, LA lost Dwight Howard when he looked to have damaged his shoulder. He’s been out since that game, adding to a seemingly never ending list. Howard had already hurt his labrum in a previous DL stint.
Coaches and players alike saw it as a set back. Fans and writers saw it as yet another bookmark in the Lakers’ tumultuous season. Bryant, ever the Lakers’ constant stimulant, sees it as an opportunity for Howard.
Characteristic of his demanding approach, Bryant said, “”When I was growing up, going through high school and middle school, unfortunately but fortunately I dealt with injuries,”
“When you go through those things you learn your body and what you can push through.”, he added, harking back to some of his own bumps and bruises.
Most of what Bryant has to say here immediately comes off as “Mamba being Mamba”. But, maybe there’s some opportunity here for Howard to actually grow.
To be sure, there is likely no idea more ignorant in its antiquated approach as “playing through the pain”. Through a regrettable combination of media glorifying those who play under pain and a common culture among athletes that expects it, it’s become a sort of preamble to a hero’s tale.
With that being said, it’s not hard to understand where Kobe’s coming from. Outside of just the been-there-done-that tone, one ought to consider the sort of big men that Mamba was exposed to. “Bruising” isn’t even the word. His teammate is the first that comes to mind, but as dominant and menacing as Shaquille O’Neal was, Bryant witnessed more of the now long gone era of brutal bigs. Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Duncan, just to rattle off a few.
Having went through the early stages of his career dealing with those guys, Bryant knows a thing or two about tough bigs. Sure, the game’s rules have changed so that certain physical instances are more staunchly discouraged. Nonetheless, the NBA still needs a big man not only of sublime natural talent, but a physical and mental toughness that further emanates his presence.
That the differences between Howard and this guy boil down to a meager surplus of talent is embarrassing. A tougher Howard (again, both physical and mental) should be evident not just in his handling of physical duress, but in his composure as well.
Again, the concept of playing through pain is dangerous and ill advised. But, the bigger point, that Dwight needs to get tested (and therefore become tougher) is a healthy note for LA’s prized big man.
–HT to RealGM
Mohamed Abdihakim is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Phoenix Suns fan, who is not prepared for the possibility of Nash winning a title in a Lakers jersey. Mohamed is also an editor at Hoops Nation and contributes to Les Snobs. Interests include International basketball, Mad Men, and blues music. Nearly all stats are credited to Hoopdata or Basketball-Reference.
Twitter handle: @Abdi_hakim.