When he was initially passed over for the “NBA 75” anniversary team, 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers reserve center Dwight Howard voiced his own disappointment. Now, a former All-Star teammate of the free agent big man has come to his defense.
Retired NBA point guard Jameer Nelson, who made an All-Star team with Howard in 2009. Their Orlando Magic club would go on to face off in the NBA Finals against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and the rest of the Lakers in an eventual five-game defeat.
The 6’0″ vet sat for wide-ranging conversation with Bally Sports Network’s Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. When the topic of discussion turned to Howard’s missing out on the NBA 75 team this past February, Nelson advocated for the 6’10” big man’s inclusion.
Here’s a transcription of Nelson’s full thoughts on the snub, courtesy of Robinson:
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“A no brainer. Absolutely. It shouldn’t be a thing. He’s top 75 in my book, right? And he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t understand how you CANNOT put him in those two categories. Nothing against anybody else who’s a Hall of Famer or who’s Top 75; I’m not either of those so I can comment on it all I want and I’m not being biased because he was my teammate and all that stuff — again, the dude got double teamed EVERY single night, you know what I’m sayin’? The dude was the anchor of the defense. He was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year multiple times so the stats pretty much speak for themselves and I’m sure that he WILL be a Hall of Famer but, I definitely think that he should’ve been in that Top 75.”
Four of Howard’s Lakers teammates last season did make the cut on the NBA’s 75th anniversary list, intended to celebrate the 75 best players in its history: 19th-year forwards LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, big man Anthony Davis, and point guard Russell Westbrook. The inclusions of James, Anthony and Westbrook make sense given those players’ accomplishments as the leaders of their respective franchises, but Howard may wind up having had a better career than the injury-prone Davis, who seems to be aging quite rapidly.
Nelson was selected out of Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft by Orlando along with Howard, who was the top pick. The point guard played for 14 NBA seasons, and spent eight of them with Howard in Orlando before the three-time Defensive Player of the Year was shipped out to the Lakers in the summer of 2012. Nelson would go on to suit up for the Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Detroit Pistons. He last played in 2018.
Howard holds career averages of 15.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 dimes, and 0.9 steals a night across 1242 regular season contests. He led the Magic, Lakers and Houston Rockets to a variety of deep postseason runs, won three Defensive Player of the Year titles, and was generally the best center in the NBA for nearly a decade before transitioning into a role player for the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Washington Wizards. Howard returned to L.A. in the 2019-20 season and won a title as a valuable role player. The championship was the cherry on top of what has been a remarkable career, all things considered.
Yes, he has had personality clashes with a variety of teammates and coaches, but that shouldn’t detract from the kind of output he enjoyed on the hardwood as one of the most unstoppable low post two-way forces ever. He probably deserved the spot over Davis.
Nelson, a native of Chester, PA, is currently the assistant general manager for the Philadelphia 76ers’ NBAGL affiliate club, the Delaware Blue Coats.
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