The Los Angeles Lakers have closed out the Miami Heat to be crowned 2020 NBA Champions, meaning centre Dwight Howard has finally earned his first championship ring.
It’s been quite the journey for the veteran who signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers this past offseason. Each side agreed to put their past behind them to try and help this team get back to title contention, and it ended up being the perfect match as Howard was able to thrive in a reduced role for a championship team.
The eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA, five-time All-Defensive Team and three-time Defensive Player of the Year selection was well on his way to the Hall of Fame even without a title, but finally achieving the highly-coveted championship ring puts a bow on Howard’s decorated career.
In a similar career-arch to 1970s star and Hall of Fame centre Spencer Haywood – who had an equally as decorated career earning an MVP, five All-Star appearances, five All-NBA/ABA selections and other awards such as Rookie of the Year – who had been without a title entering his 30s just like Howard. Electing to join a loaded Lakers team with the likes of rookie Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Haywood also flourished in a reduced role to earn the first championship of his career.
Point being: Howard is not the first great player to latch on to a championship-calibre team and give them key minutes to help earn a title, and he certainly won’t be the last in an age where this is becoming more and more common.
In the 2000s alone, we’ve already seen a few great examples of this. Take a look at some other NBA stars who took the same late path Howard did to the first NBA title of their career.
2020: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
Experience prior to first title: 15 years in NBA, 34 years old
Resume prior to first title : 8x All-Star, 8x All-NBA, 5x All-Defence, 5x Rebound Champ, 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Blocks Champ, All-Rookie
Howard was widely renowned as one of the best centres in the NBA in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Leading the Orlando Magic to The Finals in 2009, it would have been hard to guess that he’d go another 11 seasons without winning an NBA title.
Putting his pride aside, Howard played a vital role off the bench for the Lakers all season. His efforts on the defensive end and on the glass earned him a spot in the starting lineup down the stretch of their 2020 championship run as Howard was able to embrace a lesser role and make the most of limited minutes.
2019: Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors
Experience prior to first title: 11 years in NBA, 34 years old
Resume prior to first title: 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 1x Defensive Player of the Year, 1x All-Defence, All-Rookie