Esquire Interview w/ Dwight Howard | Start the Countdown
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If you don’t read Esquire magazine you have two reasons now. One is because Rihanna was voted “Sexiest Woman in the World” and two because the interview with Dwight Howard is what I’m marking as the official start the countdown until he leaves the Orlando Magic…just like Shaq. You know the first dominant big man that was a #1 pick of the Magic and was called Superman and then left to win championships. I left out funny because Shaq is and Dwight is not.
The following is Scott Raab’s interview with Dwight
SCOTT RAAB: You having fun at Fashion Week?
DWIGHT HOWARD: Yesterday I had front-row seats to my first fashion show, and after that I hosted a party and a lot of designers came out.
HOSTESS: Where would you prefer to sit?
SR: Anywhere he wants to sit. [To Howard] Are you hungry?
DH: Just a little bit. I saved some room. [Sings] Save a little room for me, baby.
WAITRESS: Bottle, sparkling, tap?
DH: Bottle would be great. You know, actually, tap would be good. With some ice — that’d be good. Can I get some corn soup? And are the tuna nachos really good?
WAITRESS: They are. Sushi grade.
DH: Okay, let me try that, too. And the New York strip.
WAITRESS: And for you, sir?
SR: Those tuna nachos sound too good not to have. And the Cobb salad. And iced tea. [To Howard] You’re a soft-voiced man.
DH: I am?
SR: You’re a quiet man.
DH: I’m not quiet.
SR: If I had a coach like Stan Van Gundy yelling at me all season, I would have slapped that guy silly a long time ago. What’s it like to have a guy constantly yelling at you with that voice?
DH: Stan’s a great guy away from basketball. He’s passionate. He loves the game. I have no problem with him off the court. The only thing I had a real problem with was the way he coached. It was very tough with Stan, because he yelled a lot, and I don’t want to be that guy to yell at my teammates along with my coach. Because they’re going to turn it all off. I had to find different ways to motivate my team. Sometimes when you have so much negativity, it’s really hard to be positive. I had a lot of negativity growing up, so I understand how to block the negativity out.
SR: Growing up?
DH: Nobody thought that I was going to make it to the NBA. I only had a couple of believers growing up.
SR: Because your school was so small?
DH: And I was skinny, and I wasn’t tall enough. And I’m a Christian. So —
SR: So you must be soft.
DH: God says, Turn the other cheek. So there’s no way I could play in a man’s game.
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WAITER: How we doing today?
DH: Good, how you doing?
WAITER: It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.
DH: Aw, you, too.
SR: What about me?
WAITER: This is on the house. It’s a goat-cheese queso fundido.
SR: If I had been in the position of a pro athlete in my early 20s, with everybody throwing everything at me — women, all the money in the world, queso fundido — I’d be dead. It’s amazing how you manage it all.
DH: I’ve been on the side where you have nothing, and now I’m on the side where anything I want is there for me. When I didn’t have the means to do whatever I wanted to do, I still had peace. I still had faith in God that he would take care of whatever I needed. The hardest thing to do is to trust people. Even if you know them from way back when, it’s hard to trust people. There’s a lot we have to deal with, and it’s the price of fame. We have to deal with it because it’s a part of what our dream was. We wanted to be celebrities and play basketball.
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SR: You’re not just a player now — you’re a brand. That must feel weird.
DH: It’s weird, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted my whole life.
SR: To be a product?
DH: To be an icon. To be somebody.
SR: To represent for Christ?
DH: To represent Christ and also myself. For people to look up to me, and remember me, like Magic Johnson, like Muhammad Ali. Stuff that I dream about — going overseas, having people run after me and want to take pictures, stuff like that. I always dreamed about that. It’s cool that I actually see all this stuff starting to happen in front of me.
SR: It’s amazing when you think about it — coming from a tiny school and now you’re a citizen of the whole world.
DH: Everything that I’ve always watched on the Discovery Channel, I’ve seen it live. Being in Africa, being in Russia, being in India, seeing tigers. All this stuff is really happening, and I’m so young.
The next place on my bucket list is Antarctica. I don’t know how I’m going to get there. When people ask me where I’m from, I say, “Antarctica. They got a colony down there, and they breed tall guys.” People are like, “Wow, there’s people in Antarctica?” And I’m like, “Yeah, we’ve got a whole colony. It’s about 150.”
SR: That’s hilarious.
DH: That’s one place I’ve always wanted to go.
SR: They must have tours.
DH: It’s very tough to get there.
SR: With the lockout, maybe you can go this winter. Do you think there’s going to be a season?
DH: Hopefully there will be. I think a lot of people would miss out. But this gives players a chance to find out who they really are. I’ve been traveling to a lot of places. I was in Tanzania building dormitories for young women so they can go to school.
DH: It was great. It was my second trip to Africa, and it was just amazing. I really wanted to help the girls there because it’s so hard for them to go to school. I was watching kids walk — three-year-olds, five-year-olds, eight-year-olds — walk for miles to school. I went to China and Mongolia. I was in Europe — France, Spain.
SR: I know it’s a subject you haven’t wanted to talk about publicly, but is fatherhood a part of your life?
DH: It’s very important. Hopefully me and my son’s mom will come to a better agreement for my son. When I do see him, we have the best time in the world. He acts just like me. He tries to run like me. He looks back and smiles like me. Fatherhood is great and it will get better. He’s young. He’s gonna need his father in his life. People say you don’t need a father to be successful. I take offense to that. I had an argument with my mom about Father’s Day and why it’s not celebrated like Mother’s Day.
SR: I’ve been around the NBA enough as a writer to see the women who would give anything just to get impregnated. And I’ve seen the men who didn’t care how many kids they had in how many different places, just as long as they had someone to fuck on the road. Pardon my French.
DH: I understand. With some of my teammates, they try so hard to be around their kid, and then the mother of their child makes it so hard. A lot of guys just say, “I’m not gonna deal with it.”
SR: It’s always the kids who pay the price.
DH: I would never, ever desert my child. A lot of my friends didn’t have fathers growing up, and they were very upset that their fathers weren’t around. I was lucky to have mine around.
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SR: What’s your itinerary after Fashion Week?
DH: I’m gonna go home and train real hard for about two weeks, and then I’m going to get the team together and we’re going to train as a team every day. Just find ways to stay together.
SR: Have you been working with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer?
DH: We’ve worked out. We’re getting on a schedule in a couple of weeks where he comes down to Orlando. The only way my game is going to free up is if I start shooting 80 per-cent or better from the line. That’s going to be my main area of concern this year, getting my free throws better. I met the best shooting coach I could ever find — I’ve seen him make 200 free throws in a row with his eyes closed, all net, no rim, nothing. He’s all science, man — he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
WAITRESS: How is everything so far?
DH: Everything is great.
WAITRESS: Pace yourself. Save room for dessert, too.
DH: Oh, lord.
SR: You really need to take better care of yourself, brother.
DH: My trainer’s gonna be upset.
SR: You’ve got a smile that other human beings respond to. It’s a beautiful smile, even during games.
DH: When I’m smiling and having fun, that’s when you should have a problem. If I’m out there frowning and looking mean, that’s when you know you’ve beat me — because I’m not having fun. I’ve been playing basketball since I was three. Everybody since I was three tried to tell me to stop smiling. Even my dad. My dad apologized to me when I was ten. He said, “Dwight, I remember I told you to stop smiling. I like when you smile. Keep doing it. I’m sorry for ever telling you not to smile.” I said, “Dad, look, I’m young. This is what brings me joy. This is my sanctuary. This is my church. This is where I show God that I’m thankful for life.” I’m going to show it when I play basketball, when I’m on the streets, when I’m having fun. When I’m anywhere, I’m going to show God that I’m thankful just for life. I’m living out my dream. This is what I want to do.
SR: Do you think the players’ union can hold it together?
DH: We’ve got to. We’ve got to stick together. I know, as much as I try to do for the game of basketball and be an ambassador for the NBA, I don’t want my money cut short. I work hard. Not just in games, but off the court, too. When the NBA asks me to do something, I’m there.
SR: You’re representing.
DH: That’s my job, to motivate people. I can do more, show people more things. That’s really why I play basketball. That’s my whole purpose of playing basketball. I was supposed to be in the NBA. I was supposed to travel the world and make the world a better place.
SR: That’s no small thing for a man to carry.
DH: It’s not. But that’s why God gave me big shoulders.
SR: Do you think that the drive to represent, on an iconic level, will be a factor in your free agency? Do you see yourself in a much larger market?
DH: There’s more you can do in a bigger place. I’m stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I’m at, I’ve done so much. And I just don’t know what else I can do. I can’t live for everybody else. I don’t know what decision I’m gonna make as of right now. It’s been crazy. Everybody wants me to come here, come play here, come to our team, do this. It’s a great feeling, though, to be wanted.
SR: You’re gone. I can feel it.
DH: The toughest part for me is the city — the people. They’ve got burgers named after me in Orlando, they’ve got a Web site saying, “Please stay.” I love the people in the city. I’ve literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.
SR: Just don’t do it as an hour-long ESPN special. Please.
DH: That’s not me.