- Via NBA on TNT/YouTube
TNT’s “Inside the NBA” is known more for the constant ribbing between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal and for the cast’s constant banter than for any groundbreaking, serious moments or eye-opening analysis.
But on Tuesday night, Dwight Howard joined the cast while O’Neal was out to discuss the dramatic ending to Game 5 of the Spurs-Thunder series.
During the postgame segment, Barkley asked Howard about his reputation as a dislikable player.
Barkley said that when he receives questions about Howard while traveling, he answers, “He’s a really nice guy, he’s a hell of a player, but for some reason people don’t like him.”
He then asked Howard, “Why do you think [people think] that about you?”
Barkley also asked about Howard’s on-court demeanor and how he could appear uninterested at times, unhappy with his role on the court. Numerous reports have suggested that Howard and Rockets costar James Harden don’t enjoy playing with each other, which Barkley addressed.
Howard gave a startlingly candid answer.
“I would say people see me and they’ve seen the success I’ve had in Orlando, and they see me now and they’re like, ‘What’s the difference?'” Howard said. “And I think I was very likable in Orlando, and the way that situation ended, I think people felt as though I’m just this bad guy. I’m all about myself, I’m a diva, I’m stuck on being ‘Dwight Howard, this famous basketball player.’ So, you know, a lot of people say like, ‘You know what, we don’t like this guy.’
“And I hear that a lot. And you know what, it really hurts me because my heart and my attitude towards the game has always been the same. And my drive has always been there … I’ve never been a bad person. It’s not like I want people to like me, because I know people are not always gonna like me. But if you get to know me, I’m laid back. I like to have fun.”
Howard also acknowledged being frustrated at times with his role in Houston, saying that as a big man who couldn’t bring the ball up the floor, create his own shot, or space the floor, he wanted to feel more involved and helped by teammates. But he also said he needed to control his emotions better when things weren’t going his way.
Howard is entering something of a crossroads in his career. He can become a free agent on July 1, and all indications are he will opt out of his contract with the Rockets. Free agency may be a tricky situation for him, however, as teams may be wary about committing big money to Howard, who is now 30 years old with a history of back injuries and a noticeable decline in explosiveness. Additionally, with questions about his attitude becoming a constant throughout his stops in the NBA, teams might be hesitant to sign a player who still seems to want to be the focal point of an offense.
Still, this was an honest admission from Howard, and it can’t hurt to demonstrate this kind of persona in front of a national audience. It may not change the potential problems facing him on the court, but it may put concerns over his attitude to rest.
Watch the entire segment below: