Seinfeld is one of the funniest television shows ever. Sometimes dry-witted, sometimes slapslick but always genius. One of the better episodes during the show’s long run was “The Bizarro Jerry” that originally air October 1996. The concept of the episode was based off of Bizarro, the comic book character that is simingly simular but the exact opposite of Superman. In this episode, Elaine befriends a group of three men who are wholesome, polite, neat and thoughtful, the exact opposite of Jerry, George & Kramer. Because of the episode, “the Bizarro of…” is always in a conscious when comparing two unlike things. The low adidas Yeezy Boost is the Bizarro Nike Roshe. Every bad D.C. Comics movie is the Bizarro Marvel Comics movie. And, most recently it occurred to me, Dwight Howard is the Bizarro Allen Iverson.
If you think all the reasons why we love A.I. for what he did for basketball culture on and off the court are reasons why we, for the most part, loath Howard. Bubba Chuck was authentic as fuck. He was himself at all times. The braids, the tattoos, the questioning the validity of outrage against missed practices. Iverson was the epitome of cool and originally when Dwight was none of these things. Howard started his career as a jovial goofy big man. This wasn’t necessarily cool (remember when he tried to eat a cook off of his face?) nor original since Shaq was the blueprint for this persona, even down to the Superman infatuation. A.I. inspired a generation of ballers on court (primary scoring point guards like Steph Curry & Kyrie Irving) and off (whether it’s players embracing hip-hop culture more openly, tattoo culture, or maintaining originality like Russell Westbrook) while small ball basketball philosophy has all but weeded out the big man’s existence.
Going back to basketball skill, A.I. & Dwight are polar opposites but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; for as gifted as Iverson was offensively, Howard was equally gifted on the defensive end. At times, it felt like Iverson could score at will, using his crossover to either create separation for a jumper or attacking the rim. What he lacked in efficiency, he more than made up for with tenacity and heart. He finished his career as Rookie of the Year of the 1996-97 season, Most Valuable Player of the 2000-01 season and as a Hall of Famer. While Dwight never won ROY and probably will never win MVP (though he did come in 2nd voting in 2010-11), he is a Hall of Fame center and probably the last of his bred for the foreseeable future.
During his prime, and focusing directly on his on-court play, Dwight Howard was one of the best rim defenders in the NBA. While he did get occasionally posterized, D12 regularly neutralized an opponents offensive post game and was an effective rebounder. Hyperbole aside, Howard had at least five seasons as the best center in the NBA with little continual challengers. For his career, here are his achievements: Howard in NBA history is currently 20th in blocks, 22nd in rebounds, averaged double digits in rebounding every season of his 13 year career, was either 1st or 2nd in total rebounds for eight consecutive seasons, 3x Defensive Player of the Year, the only player in NBA history to win DPOY three consecutive seasons (Kawhi Leonard may be the 2nd to do so this season), 5x All-Defense Team and 8x All-NBA Team. Like A.I., he willed his overachieving Eastern Conference team to the NBA Finals. Unlike A.I., however, Howard’s position is dying.
While Steph and Kyrie can be looked as new, efficient versions of Iverson’s game, with pace-and-space basketball, the days of having a center stand in the paint 24 hours a day are gone. Having a center hold the ball in the paint is the most inefficient play in basketball now; the entire offensive comes to a grinding halt and the post becomes a black hole. With Dwight being the type of player that needs the ball deep in the paint and teams going to shooting 3’s, slashing and getting to the foul line, Howard’s game has become outdated. Even in his obsolescence, Howard’s Hall of a Fame status should not be questioned even with his career having highly questionable moments. Though the jokes became corny and his ability to run coaches named Van Gundy out of a job was irritating, his apex was highly impressive. Even though D12 jocked Shaq’s stylo, he did things that Shaq didn’t do: lead the league in rebounds, blocks, win DPOY and be named to any All-Defensive 1st Team. Also, Dwight, along with Nate Robinson, breathed life into the Slam Dunk Contest before we truly realized how important it is to have a fun Slam Dunk Contest because a bad Slam Dunk Contest stinks to high heaven.
As someone that has continually joked on Howard’s career missteps (because the jokes are oh so plentiful), the game is the game and his game at it’s peak spoke for itself. While I seriously doubt we will ever see anyone wearing a Dwight Lakers or Rockets or Hawks or Hornets throwback jersey, one day (maybe?) it’ll be ok to rock the Magic. But, until that time, please enjoy the video of Dwight Howard trying to eat a damn cookie off of his fucking face.