Dominating The League

By Chris Le

A Beast. A Monster.

Is it just me or do you always hear one of the two being used when someone is talking about Dwight Howard? I mean, it’s fitting when you see him on the hardwood – or just standing stationary, for that matter – because he looks like someone made him from the best parts of the game’s top players. The NBA’s version of Frankenstein, if you will. And just like the beast, the monster, in Mary Shelley’s novel, Howard is feared.

In the very near future, however, you may be hearing a third descriptive phrase: the most dominant player in the league.

That’s what Kevin Durant declared when asked about the Orlando Magic center. Granted, being a rookie, Durant has seen barely over half of the league’s teams and has yet to appreciate the subtle nuances of the game. But his description of Howard isn’t that ridiculous or too far-fetched, is it?

At 6’11” and 265 pounds, with shoulders as wide as a mid-sized car, he is built like a tank. Mix in athleticism that makes about 99.9% of NBA players jealous, and you start to realize that “freak of nature” is really his only apt characterization. If you need proof, check out his warm up for the 2007 Dunk Contest, which includes jams having him literally kissing the rim – you know, generally stuff no human being on earth should be able to do. Like Kenny Smith says in the video, he has the hang time and agility of a guard, but the frame and power of a big. Just ridiculous.

In only his fourth season, Howard is averaging 23.2 points, a league-leading 15.1 rebounds, 3 blocks and shooting over .600 once again. This kid is such a force that I am no longer surprised by his 20-point, 20-rebound performances. It has become a norm for him; I now just expect those numbers from him on a daily basis.

The crazy thing is he’s still pretty raw. Yes, his post-game repertoire has expanded a bit, as well as his range, and he can now use his left hand to a certain degree (much of his improvement I credit to his experience with Team USA), but his go-to move is still the dunk. He’s dominating on sheer force, athleticism and size.

And because of his lack of polish, I can’t give him the title of the game’s most dominant player.

In fact, I’d still – for today; my answer might be different next week – take Yao Ming over Howard. Sounds crazy, I know, but let me explain. While not as awe-inspiring as Howard, Yao is a complete offensive player with deft finesse moves, an increasingly sweet jumper, and most importantly, a greater ability to pass the ball, especially out of double-teams (a facet of his game that really separates him from Howard). And let’s not forget that Yao is also a sure thing at the charity stripe, shooting 87.3% for the season, while Howard has taken a page from Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace’s book and possesses a greater field-goal percentage (.610) than free-throw percentage (.608). Yao can control an offense, and at this point, by the slimmest of margins, is the better overall center.

I’m also hesitant to call Howard the most dominating physical presence in the NBA. D-Howard is probably the most physically intimidating post player in the league with his combination of hops and power. But, overall, taking into account every baller in the NBA, there’s still some “little” guy by the name of LeBron James.

As a 6’8”, 250-pound small forward, LeBron is as big and strong as some post players and faster than most guards. He is unstoppable off the dribble and has the unparalleled ability to make a poster out of anyone at any given moment. He’s among the 0.01% of the NBA that isn’t envious of Howard’s athleticism. But unlike Howard, LeBron combines his frightening God-given talent with a skill level to match. Until further notice, LeBron is the most dominant player in the league. Or, he’s 1.a. 1.b is Tim Duncan, who I believe when healthy still controls both ends of the court like no one else on the planet.

Here’s how I see it:

1.a. LeBron James

1.b. Tim Duncan

3. Kobe Bryant

4. Yao Ming

5. Dwight Howard

But check back in a year or two. I wouldn’t be surprised if Howard tops this list. If he continues to improve at his current pace, he could be a better, more impacting version of David Robinson. And that’s just…nasty. Last I remembered, David Robinson was a pretty decent player.

Howard could also top the list of players I’d most like to play as for a day. As of right now, this is how that list looks:

1. LeBron James

2. Manu Ginobili

3. Dwight Howard

4. Dwyane Wade

5. Allen Iverson

Can you imagine playing as Dwight Howard for a day, in the league or at your local playground? Now that would be fun. Swatting every shot without even having to jump. On every play, your teammates just lob it up, and you tea bag whomever happens to be in the way.

Oh, to be a freak of nature.

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9 responses to “Dominating The League

  1. Come to think of it, Howard should have scrapped the sticker on the glass dunk after Stern disallowed a 12-foot rim from being used. It was an impressive feat but not a cool dunk. Now, that 12-foot rim would be something.

    I would easily choose to be Kobe for a day because ball-handling skills are the most envious on the street, and his ability to drain any shot he likes makes for nice range.

  2. you did NOT include manu on that list of guys youd like to play as!! you can go in the backyard right now and contort your body hideously and jump towards the rim

  3. I still think the sticker dunk was fun. And damn impressive, too. It just took a replay or two to fully appreciate.

    As you know, Bryan, I’ve already broken enough ankles in my lifetime. But I’ve never felt the sensation of outmuscling someone and flying. That’s why LeBron tops my list. Though I’m sure at 6’6″ and 210, Kobe wouldn’t have any trouble punking fools on the playground.

  4. Dude, Ginobili is fun to watch. Stop drinking that haterade. He’s got it all: dangerous 3-point range, ambidextrous, the ability to travel and not have it called by refs, and he’s seriously one of the most underrated in-game dunkers today.

    Ginobili rules all.

  5. You’d rather be Ginobli than Kobe?

    NO WAY.

    You’d rather make layups instead of 360 monster flushes? And Kobe’ll own Manu in a shooting contest any day of the week.

    KOBE RULES ALL.

    Though it would be fun to be Deke (in his prime) for a day. Swat people sick, wag the finger, speak terrible English, and build hospitals for people. Go Mutombo.

  6. Ahahahaha, that’s so Dikembe. But yeah, blocks are so much more satisfying than dunks because you know, I do both all the time. While we’re at it, Shawn Bradley anyone?

    Great dunks shouldn’t need replays to fully appreciate. That’s just what I go by.

    Yao is disappointingly underachieving because of his size. The fact that he is approaching the game with finesse and his ability to shoot free throws is all that is wrong about his game. Every category can and should be so much higher: PTS (22.4), FG% (.513), REB (10.3), AST (2.4) and BLK (2.3). Howard tops him in all five cats. but assists.

  7. What a rip by ESPN. Copying our article ideas and shit.

  8. If i wanted to rape girls and elbow opposing players, then I’d be Kobe.

    But seriously, you guys are missing the point. It’s not a list of the best players, it’s a list of who you’d want to be for a day. It’s not just about skill — which i admit, a category Kobe tops — it’s also about style. And plus, there’s something appealing to me about schooling guys who are obviously more skilled and physically talented than you. Come to think of it, how about being Bruce Bowen for a day? Annoying the hell out of players, twisting ankles.

    As for Yao, the more the season progresses, the harder it is for me to place him above Howard, who continues to dominate and win. At first, I just didn’t want to be hasty leapfrog Howard over Yao based on only two months of play. I still think Yao has it in him to effect the game more than Howard — this year. And his impact goes beyond stats. But Yao isn’t getting a lot of help with his team shooting 0.318 from three-point range.

  9. You like how I devalued the use of statistics, then immediately gave a statistic?

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