Before he was drafted in 2004, Howard said that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world". In November 2009, he was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work.
Early lifeHoward was born December 8, 1985 in Atlanta, Georgia to Dwight Sr. and Sheryl Howard and into a family with strong athletic connections. His father is a Georgia State Trooper and serves as Athletic Director of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, a private academy with one of the best high school basketball programs in the country, while his mother played on the inaugural women's basketball team at Morris Brown College. A devout Christian since his youth, Howard became serious about basketball around the age of nine; when in the eighth grade, he resolved to be selected as the number one pick in the NBA Draft one day. Despite his large frame, Howard was quick and versatile enough to play the guard position. He elected to attend Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy for high school, and in his four years he played mostly as power forward, averaging 16.6 points per game (ppg), 13.4 rebounds per game (rpg) and 6.3 blocks per game in 129 appearances. As a senior, Howard led his team to the 2004 state title. He averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8.1 blocks and 3.5 assists per game. That same year, Howard was widely recognized as the best American high school basketball player, and he was awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award, the Morgan Wootten High School Player of the Year Award, Gatorade National Player of the Year and the McDonald's National High School Player of the Year honor. He was also co-MVP (with J. R. Smith) of the McDonald's High School All-American Game that year.
Early yearsFollowing his high school successes, Howard chose to forego college and declared for the 2004 NBA Draft—a decision partly inspired by his idol Kevin Garnett who had done the same in 1995—where the Orlando Magic selected him first overall over UConn junior Emeka Okafor. He took the number 12 for his jersey, in part because it was the reverse of Garnett's 21 when he played for Minnesota. Howard joined a depleted Magic squad that had finished with only 21 victories the previous season; further, the club had just lost perennial NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. Howard, however, made an immediate impact. He finished his rookie season with an average of 12.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg, setting several NBA records in the process. He became the youngest player in NBA history to average a double double in the regular season. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 10.0 rebounds in a season and youngest NBA player ever to record at least 20 rebounds in a game. Howard's importance to the Magic was highlighted when he became the first player in NBA history directly out of high school to start all 82 games during his rookie season. For his efforts, he was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Rookie Challenge, and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team. He also finished third to fellow center Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats and guard Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls for the Rookie of the Year award.
Howard reported to camp for his second NBA campaign having added 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season. Orlando coach Brian Hill—responsible for grooming former Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal—decided that Howard should be converted into a full-fledged center. Hill identified two areas where Howard needed to improve: his post-up game, and his defense. He exerted extra pressure on Howard, saying that the Magic would need him to emerge as a force in the middle before the team had a chance at the playoffs. Even though the big man played tentatively at times, he was able to build on his strong rookie year with an impressive sophomore season. On November 15, 2005, in a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard scored 21 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the youngest player ever to score 20 or more points and gather 20 or more rebounds in the same game. He was selected to play on the Sophomore Team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge during the All-Star break, and on April 15, 2006, he recorded a career-high 26 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers; his 28 points in that game also brought him close to an NBA rarity, a 30–30 game. Overall, he averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and double doubles; and sixth in field goal percentage. Despite Howard's improvement, the Magic finished the season with a 36–46 win-loss record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season since Howard's arrival.
Howard took another step forward as the franchise player for Orlando in the 2006–07 season, and for the third consecutive season he played in all 82 regular season games. On February 1, 2007, he received his first NBA All-Star selection as a reserve on the Eastern Conference squad for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. Howard finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Less than a week later, he recorded a career-high 32 points against the Toronto Raptors. A highlight was his game-winning alley-oop off an inbound at the buzzer against the San Antonio Spurs at Amway Arena on February 9. As the push for playoff spots intensified, Howard was instrumental, recording another career-high 35 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 14, 2007. Under his leadership, the Magic qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2003 as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the Magic were swept by the eventual Eastern Conference finalist Detroit Pistons in the first round. Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and finished first in the NBA in total rebounds, second in field goal percentage, and ninth in blocks. He was further recognized as one of the best players in the league when he was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006–07 campaign.
Leader of consecutive division champions
|slam dunk contest 2008|
The Magic went into the 2009–10 season with one major roster change: Türkoğlu departed for the Toronto Raptors, while eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter arrived from the New Jersey Nets. As with the previous two seasons, the Magic got off to a strong start, winning 17 of their first 21 games, setting a franchise record in the process. He also picked up two Conference Player of the Week awards. On January 21, 2010, Howard was named as the starting center for the East in the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. Not long after the Magic completed the regular season with 59 wins and their third consecutive division title, Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second straight year. He became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season twice—and for two years in a row. During the playoffs, the Magic defeated both Charlotte and Atlanta 4 games to none, in the first and second rounds respectively. In reaching the Conference Finals again, the Magic faced Boston—who had upset Cleveland in the Semifinals—Orlando lost the first three games, took the next two, but finally succumbed in Game 6.
Several teams in the Eastern Conference underwent significant roster changes to present a bigger challenge to Howard's Magic in the 2010–11 season: LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade in Miami; Carlos Boozer was added to the Chicago Bulls; the aging Boston Celtics acquired Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal; and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony joined New York. On Orlando's end, Türkoğlu returned, Carter and Jason Richardson of the Phoenix Suns swapped teams, as did Lewis and Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards. The Magic won 52 games in the regular season, and were seeded 4th in the Eastern Conference. Despite Howard posting career-highs in points and shooting percentages, the Magic lost to their first-round opponents in the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks.
NBA honors, awards and achievementsHoward has amassed several NBA and franchise records and awards during his NBA career. He has led the league in rebounds per game three times, blocks per game twice, and double-doubles twice. He is also the youngest player in NBA history to reach one, two, three, four, five, six and seven thousand career rebounds, and the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding and blocks. Following Howard's 2009–10 season, he became the first ever NBA player to lead the league in total rebounds for five consecutive seasons. He surpassed Wilt Chamberlain's record of four from 1959–60—1962–63, and again from 1965–66—1968–69. He became the first player to lead the league in rebounding and blocks in consecutive seasons, and was also the first player to ever lead the league in rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage in the same season. On April 18, 2011, Howard won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, becoming the first player in league history to have won the award in three consecutive seasons.
|Led the league|
United States national team
|Competitor for United States|
|Gold||2008 Beijing||Team competition|
|FIBA World Championship|
|Bronze||2006 Japan||Team competition|
|FIBA Americas Championship|
|Gold||2007 Las Vegas||Team competition|
On June 23, 2008, Howard was named as one of the members of the 12-man squad representing the United States in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. With Howard starting as center, Team USA won all of its games en route to the gold medal, breaking their drought of gold medals dating back to the 2000 Olympics. Howard averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the tournament.
Player profileHoward is considered the "franchise player" of the Magic. He is the NBA's leading rebounder (also leading the league in 2007–08 and 2008–09); to illustrate, in a game against the Golden State Warriors on January 10, 2007, his 25 rebounds for the Magic outnumbered the total number of boards grabbed by the starting five of the Warriors. Howard's rebounding is in part facilitated by his extraordinary athleticism; his vertical leap is estimated at almost 40 inches, rare for a player of his size (6'11", 265 pounds). He demonstrated this skill memorably in the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA All-Star Weekend, during which he completed an alley oop dunk from teammate Jameer Nelson and slapped a sticker onto the backboard which reached 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m). The sticker showed an image of his own smiling face with a handwritten "All things through Christ Phil: 4:13," a paraphrase of Philippians 4:13. As of April 2011, Howard's career average of 12.9 rebounds per game (in the regular season) ranks 13th in NBA history. The center has also remained largely injury-free in his NBA career, playing in 351 consecutive games before missing his first game.
Howard's abilities and powerful physique have drawn attention from fellow NBA All-Stars. Tim Duncan once remarked in 2007: "[Howard] is so developed... He has so much promise and I am glad that I will be out of the league when he is peaking." Kevin Garnett echoed those sentiments: "[Howard] is a freak of nature, man... I was nowhere near that physically talented. I wasn't that gifted, as far as body and physical presence." Subsequent to a game in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala said: "It's like he can guard two guys at once. He can guard his guy and the guy coming off the pick-and-roll, which is almost impossible to do... If he gets any more athletic or jumps any higher, they're going to have to change the rules." As early as December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA.
While many sports pundits have been rating Howard as one of the top young prospects in the NBA since 2006, Howard has some weaknesses in his game. Offensively, his shooting range remains limited; he is also mistake-prone, having led the NBA in total number of turnovers in the 2006–07 season. Like many centers, he has a low free throw conversion percentage. As a result, he is often a target of the Hack-a-Shaq defense and is annually among the league leaders in free throw attempts. During the 2007–08 regular season, Howard led the NBA with 897 free throw attempts while shooting only 59% from the free throw line. Also in that season, outside of layups and dunks, his shooting percentage was only 31.6%. In the 2008–09 season, he led the NBA again with 849 free throw attempts and in 2009–10, he was second in the NBA with 816.
Personal lifeBefore he was drafted in 2004, Howard said that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world". He has stated he believes in reaching out to his community and fans and thus contributes substantially in the field of philanthropy. An avid listener of Gospel music, he attends the Fellowship of Faith Church when he is back home in Atlanta and is involved and active with the youth programs at the church. Together with his parents, Howard also established the Dwight D. Howard Foundation Inc. in 2004. The Foundation provides scholarships for students who want to attend his alma mater, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and grants to Lovell Elementary School and Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Florida. The Foundation also organizes summer basketball camps for boys and girls, and together with high school and college coaches and players, fellow NBA players are invited to be on hand at the camp. For his contributions in the Central Florida community, Howard received in 2005 the Rich and Helen De Vos Community Enrichment Award. Within the NBA itself, Howard has participated in several NBA "Read to Achieve" assemblies encouraging children to make reading a priority. In November 2009, the center was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work.
Elsewhere, Howard appeared as a special guest on an episode of the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired 2 April 2006, in which Ty Pennington and his team built a new home and ministry offices for Sadie Holmes, who operates a social services ministry in the Orlando area.
Howard and Royce Reed, a former dancer for the team, have a son, Braylon.