August 22, 2012

A Howard Hypothesis

Somewhere in the universe, there exists an alternate basketball reality in which Dwight Howard, the embattled Orland Magic center, is a better man. Here, in the spring of 2008, after four of the most dominant years in the history of NCAA athletics, Howard earned a college degree.

It does not matter where he went. Place him anywhere, really.

In this scenario, he played for a great coach and grew into himself as a player. Here, his basketball I.Q. and maturity — the player who came into the league with braces and has scars up and down his forearms from shattering a backboard in the eighth grade — caught up with his body.

Perhaps under Tom Izzo, he learned that disrespecting the head coach during a timeout should get him benched.

Maybe under Bill Self, he was taught not to air dirty laundry through Twitter and ESPN-televised press conferences, especially if he is considering transferring schools.

Perhaps under Thad Matta, he won a championship after high school. Maybe he learned what it takes to win.

Maybe at Georgetown, under John Thompson III, he learned to hit free throws.

Perhaps he went to a mid-major like Creighton and learned to respect his fans, many of whom were also his peers, not just faceless drones used to boost jersey and sneaker sales.

Maybe he took busses and commercial flights to games rather than Maybachs and private jets (granted he turned down offers from John Calipari and the goon squad of accompanying NBA agents and wealthy well-wishers.)

Perhaps under Mike Kryzewski, he learned that teamwork and self-sacrifice outweigh hurt feelings about not getting the last shot.

Maybe under former head coach Bob Knight, he learned to worry less about the ”legacy” of other players like Shaquille O’Neal, whose career trajectory Howard reportedly wants to avoid, and more about being a good teammate.

In that reality, Howard’s college career shapes him into perhaps the greatest post player of all time, matching his physical dominance with focus, poise and inner-strength.

But unfortunately for the Dwight Howard of our universe, he spent the last 18 months gesturing about free agency and behaving immaturely. The Howard we know has exposed his true self: a supremely talented player, much like LeBron James, hindered by the fragility of his own ego.

Howard, nicknamed “Superman,” has exposed his kryptonite: tough choices, hurt feelings and adversity. Those are all things you learn to deal with in college.

Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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