Dwight David Howard (born December 8, 1985, in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Howard, who usually plays center but can also play power forward
Following the impact Howard made in high school, he chose to forego college and opted into the 2004 NBA Draft. Expected to fall in the top 3, the Orlando Magic surprisingly selected him first overall over UConn standout Emeka Okafor. Howard finished his rookie season with an average of 12.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg per game, 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 feats, Howard was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Got Milk? Rookie Challenge, and was unanimously selected to the All-NBA Rookie First Team. However, he lost out to fellow center Emeka Okafor and guard Ben Gordon for the Rookie of the Year award.
Howard again posted outstanding numbers in his sophomore season. On 15 November 2005, in a home game at against the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard scored 21 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the youngest player ever to score 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds. Howard was selected to play on the Sophomore Team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge during the All-Star break, and on 15 April 2006, he recorded a career-high 26 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers. Overall, he averaged 15.8 ppg and 12.5 rpg, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds and double doubles, and sixth in field goal percentage. Nevertheless, the Magic ended 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 continued to improve on his numbers in the 2006-07 NBA season and for the third consecutive season, he played in all 82 regular season games. On 1 February 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. As the push for playoff spots intensified, Howard was instrumental, recording another career-high 35 points against the Philadelphia Sixers on 14 April 2007. Under his leadership, the Magic qualified for the 2007 NBA Playoffs as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the Magic were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the first round. Howard was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006-07 campaign.
This has been Howard's best season to date, averaging 21 pts and 14 rebounds per game. Tim Duncan has remarked: "[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." In December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA. He also has won the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest as he came dressed as Superman, bringing some much needed life and creativity to what used to be a marquee event.