Dwight Howard believes he is in a better place back in his hometown with the Atlanta Hawks, finally mature enough to handle his responsibilities, find the right work/life balance and cut off any unnecessary distractions.
“For people who didn’t know me and didn’t know how hard I worked, it gave a perception that that’s all I’m about is goofing off. That’s not me at all,” Howard told The Vertical. “I take what I do serious but at the same time, I want to have fun while I’m doing it. I didn’t like hearing that.”
Howard has visited at least 10 juvenile detention centers across the country, all during a period in his career in which he had injuries and personality clashes with teammates.
“I wouldn’t say these last couple of years have been challenging,” Howard told The Vertical. “I don’t live with regrets. These last couple of years of my basketball career, what it did was, it kind of molded me and shaped me into the person that I am today. I don’t look at my past as being something bad, but something that has kind of put me in a great position. Spending time with these kids, the only thing it did was give me motivation to continue to push forward and not allow some of the things that have happened to me in my career stop me from being the best that I can be.”
Howard admits he still wonders what could have been if he ended up with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012.
“But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason why the Brooklyn thing never happened. I thought it was going to be great, but all that stuff just led to me being back home in Atlanta, to the best situation possible for me,” Howard told The Vertical. “It’s the perfect time, perfect situation, perfect team. Everything has been great. All the things I’ve always prayed for and asked for, this team has it, and it’s crazy that it’s my hometown team. And we’re all very grateful.”
Howard is nearing his 31st birthday and is growing more reflective.
“When I first came in the league, I thought I was going to play forever. I still want to play until I’m 40, but I thought I was going to play basketball until I was 60. That’s what happens when you’re young. Once you get older, you realize there are lot of things that are important.
“I know who I am, but in this world, people always try to force you to be what they want you do be, instead of who you are,” Howard told The Vertical. “For a lot of us basketball players, we come into the NBA so young and your whole life is put out there on blast, and you’re forced to have to grow up in front of the world. The world sees all the good things, but they also see all the failures that you have, so you’re forced to really grow up and sometimes you just want to be a kid, but you can’t. There are lot of great life lessons that I’m learning, but I’m happy to see my progress.”
Howard is optimistic about this stage of his career.
"I would say the phase that I’m in now is going to be better and more rewarding than the beginning of my career.”