National Basketball Association
Top 50 NBA players from last 50 years: Dwight Howard ranks No. 43
National Basketball Association

Top 50 NBA players from last 50 years: Dwight Howard ranks No. 43

Updated Apr. 24, 2022 6:59 p.m. ET

Editor's Note: As part of a new series for his podcast, "What’s Wright with Nick Wright," FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright is ranking the 50 best NBA players of the last 50 years. The countdown continues today with player No. 43, Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard’s career highlights:

  • Eight-time All-Star
  • Five-time first-team All-NBA, one-time second-team, two-time third-team
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Four-time all-defensive first team, one-time second team
  • 2011 MVP runner-up
  • 2005 All-Rookie team
  • Five-time rebounding champion
  • Two-time blocks champion

Dwight Howard has played for a different franchise in seven consecutive seasons. He hasn’t made an All-Star team in eight years. It has been a whole decade since his tenure in Orlando ended — messily.


All of it understandably contributes to the feeling some might have of unmet expectations with Howard, who's spent half his life in the NBA. It just doesn’t erase the fact that he was already a Hall of Fame lock upon leaving the Magic and one of the better defensive centers in NBA history.

Dwight Howard is No. 43 on Nick Wright's Top 50

Five-time First Team All-NBA and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard is No. 43 on Nick Wright's Top 50 NBA Players of the Last 50 Years. Nick emphasizes Howard's four top-five NBA MVP finishes and effectiveness over such a long career as significant factors.

"Peak Dwight, before his back gave out, before he had real issues — and again some of this is his own doing because his game never matured, and some would argue he never matured, I understand that — but you can’t hold the potential against him when what he realized was so great," Wright said.

As a 19-year-old rookie, Howard sparked a 15-win turnaround for an Orlando franchise that had won just 21 games the year prior despite a near-full season from prime Tracy McGrady. The former No. 1 overall pick’s greatness kicked in by Year 3, as he made the first of eight consecutive All-NBA teams. By Year 4, he was the top player at his position. In Year 5, he led the Magic to the Finals.

In the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, his 25.8 points and 13 rebounds per game lifted underdog Orlando past a 66-win Cavaliers team that was unbeaten in the playoffs and featured LeBron James averaging 38-8-8. Howard put up 40 and 14 in the Game 6 clincher.

"He was an absolutely, all parties agree, top-five guy in the league for a five-year stretch," Wright said. "A top-three guy in the league for a two-year stretch."

While Howard was never the best player in the league, he was certainly among its most valuable. His prime would include three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards and four straight top-five MVP finishes, all while missing just seven games over his first seven seasons. 

The dynamic center’s chiseled 6-foot-10, 265-pound frame allowed him to protect the rim but also cover rangy frontcourt players. Howard posted six seasons in a row with more than two blocks per game.

"Apex Dwight in Orlando was so far and away the best defensive player in the league," Wright said. "There was not even a debate or a discussion about it."

Discourse about his actual limitations is merited, however. Howard’s offensive arsenal never evolved, and ultimately plateaued as his athleticism waned, he was a huge liability at the free-throw line, and he seemed to grate his teammates at almost every one of his many stops. The latter contributed to uncelebrated exits from the Lakers, Rockets and Hawks.

Though scoring was a secondary skill, Howard was a consistent force during the first half of his career — playoffs included. Over the 2007-15 postseasons, he averaged 20 and 14 (while shooting 59.3%), which represented small upticks over his regular-season numbers. 

Speaking of the regular season, Howard is the only player in the last 40 years to simultaneously average 20 points and 14 rebounds in two different campaigns. Only four other players (Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Love) did it once. 

If he doesn’t play another game in the NBA, he’ll still rank top 10 in career rebounds and top 15 in blocks. He’s also a champion, having served as a valuable role player for the Lakers’ 2020 title team. 

"(Howard) was the single-most glaring omission from the NBA’s just released Top 75 list," Wright said. "The fact that he was not included on the Top 75 list made that more about popularity than about credibility."


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