No one in the history of the NBA has ever had a freefall from grace quite like Dwight Howard.

In a way, it was remarkable: One season he was at the top of the big man pecking order, a fierce defender that shut down the opposition game in and game out.

The next, he was trying to bounce back from back surgery at 26 and had relocated, much to his own desire, to Los Angeles.

Then, it all fell apart.

Howard spoke to Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins, in a lengthy and honest interview in which he points out the many ways things went wrong.

Although many saw it in 2012, Howard could not: L.A. was not going to be the Holy Grail he was searching for.

Once a Laker, Howard quickly went into a downward spiral.

The feud with Kobe Bryant was well-publicized, but it turns out the bigger fight was between Howard’s mind, body, and heart.

“I lost confidence in who I am as a player,” Howard told SI. “I’d hear people say, ‘You should play more like Shaq,’ so I tried to bully guys. But that didn’t work because I’m not as big as Shaq. Then I’d hear people say, ‘You smile too much, you should be more like Kobe,’ so I tried to put on a mean face and play mad. But I wound up getting all these stupid techs and flagrant fouls.”

Howard thought it would be a match made in Heaven but it was the exact opposite.

He lasted one year in L.A. before signing a supermax with the Rockets in 2013.

It was more of the same in Houston.

Somehow, Howard managed to engage in “a cold war” with James Harden, who is reportedly one of the most well-liked guys in the league among his peers.

“James is not the kind of guy who is going to say, ‘Yo, man, you got a problem?’ and I’m not either,” Howard told Jennings. “When I don’t like what’s going on, I tend to shut down, put my headphones on and ignore everything. I don’t talk about things. That happened to me in L.A. It happened to me again in Houston. I should have communicated better.”

Jennings writes that one Rockets official called a meeting with Howard and Harden but it felt like an intervention. Harden wanted stronger screens and tougher rim protection from Howard, but Howard who considers himself “a loner,” didn’t have much to say in response.

The gap between the two superstars widened.

Flip to the next page to see what Howard said really went down with him and Van Gundy…

1 2