Emeka Okafor vs. Dwight Howard.
I remember watching those clips of Dwight Howard and thinking what most of you all thought..."Man this is just a big dude who's dunking on 5'11" kids, he ain't 'bout nothing." We'd seen Okafor play, we'd seen Okafor come off winning rings in Storrs, Connecticut, he was a known commodity. Dwight Howard was just a big goofy looking kid.
16 technical fouls, elbows to the mouth, talking crazy, and making demands later...Dwight David Howard is not a kid anymore, ole buddy is now a grown ass man.
I think this happened in three phases...
Phase One - Read the beginning of this article. Dwight Howard proving to us that he wasn't just some big kid with some athletic ability, he's proven to be as athletic as his personality, both are out of control. We revered him for being close to his religious beliefs, but at the core of things we saw him as a genuine dude...maybe even, too nice of a guy.
Phase Two - Somewhere in between the 'Superman' dunk contest and last year's NBA playoffs, Dwight's game changed. He was finally comfortable with who he was, he was out here proving to us that he was a star, and someone who should be recognized. That dunk contest did it for me, because it showed someone who was willing to take some risk and think outside the box. He began being a steady force in the playoffs and put Orlando in the upper stratosphere of teams in the Eastern Conference.
However, two things that bothered me. One, that next dunk contest when he let Nate Robinson YUUUUUUUUUUUULE all over his head in the name of gamesmanship...yeah man, you're not dunking on or over me in a dunk contest, or in any form of competition. Two, that series with Boston, because he hadn't been bullied in such a fashion and he had no one on his team who really had his back.
I still thought he was too nice...
Phase Three: That Boston series changed Dwight Howard for the better. The man has put in legitimate work on his post game, courtesy of Hakeem Olajuwon. The man is throwing elbows at a ridiculous rate, almost ending every young man's life who's under the height of 6'4"...because that's where #12's elbows rise up to. Moreover, I think Dwight's finally reached a point where he doesn't care about anything else anymore. The man is focused on winning rings, and that's a scary thought for folks in the league, because he's one of the most physically gifted players in the league and no one can really stop him.
The man now has a mean streak, and who wants it with a dude 6'11" and 275-pounds who wears smedium t-shirts to show of the guns? I don't.
We see you #12, now its time to go do work.
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!