Tuesday, 4 September 2012
The Central Core Of L.A.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Dwight Howard's summer move from the Magic Kingdom to the next chapter of Laker legacy looks to cement his legend as the next great big-man at the centre of attention for Hollywood and the NBA's most famous team the Los Angeles Lakers. Let's take a look at those who came before him in the tales of the storied franchise.
Number 99 was basketball's first superstar and once more gave 100% to every game he played in. Before Shaq, before Kobe, before Magic, before Kareem, before Wilt and West and even before Los Angeles Mikan was the first great for the Minneapolis Lakers. Taller and stronger than the rest shot blocking and rebounding where made famous by George as the championships and awards where raised in his honor. Complete with Buddy Holly glasses Mikan's ambidextrous hook shot really was a spectacle, dominating before Kareem's goggles came out of the fog of the sky. That was the day. "Without 99, there is no me", Shaquille O'Neal said when offering to pay for the late, great Mikan's funeral. The basketball league may not have looked after him the same but George sure illustrated sport like the cover with Kareem and O'Neal.
He had the tallest house on the Hollywood hills giving him a view of the stars like no one else. He was L.A's biggest star himself. He claims to have had record numbers of lovers that could match his statistical breaking numbers in points and rebounds. He scored 100 points in a single game...A SINGLE game. He averaged 50's like change for a hundred too, which afforded him more respect. He dominated everyone but Bill Russell and he is the leagues greatest offensive force ever...even over Michael Jordan. Some consider him the true G.O.A.T. Others know he is the biggest basketball player of all time in some other ways. He never fouled out in his career and even if he was controversial he never sold out his constant effort and consistent master-class of roundball dominance. Take a tour round his old home and look out of the window of the ceiling and you just may see the Big Dipper out there with the rest of the stars.
Wilt Chamberlain may hold the record for the most points in a single game but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has recorded more career points than anybody. Catch him with your 81 if you can Kobe, 'Cap's number one. With the best shot in the history of the game. The unstoppable, unguardable sky-hook, sunk everyone and spread the floor as much as his pass happy Magic teammate Earvin Johnson. Number 33, together with number 32 formed arguably the greatest Laker duo ever and you can best believe Shaq and Kobe and Chamberlain and West can argue their point. Still behind those famous goggles revealed a man that saw the game like no one else. The author of his own legend this man wrote his career the right way, going toe-to-toe with anybody even Bruce Lee. Kareem's legacy still lasts today he tutored another big man great in Andrew Byum and now he's in charge of taking the next Laker legend to banner worthy certification. It takes a champion to make a champion...and an overdue statue too.
The Lakers are immortalising Kareem in bronze next year and they certainly need to do the same to the largest personality they or the NBA have ever seen too. Until then a jersey retirement will do. Through all the championships, certified rap albums, MVP's, movies, break up and make ups with Kobe the original Superman will finally soar to the rafters with George, Wilt, Kareem and championship banners he put there. Before Dwight Howard donned the cape, Shaquille O'Neal grew it out his back. The most dominant ever crushed them all with Kobe (see Portland, San Antonio, Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey etc) and despite breaking through in Orlando like Howard the Lakers was his true kingdom. Shaq may have sat on the throne in Miami but he became a king in California. Hollywood's greatest personality didn't quite have a time like he did in L.A. and the city of the worlds biggest stars and ballplayers never saw anyone like him...and they never will.
Now it's Dwight Howard's turn as Superman returns to L.A. for a sequel with Kobe. Will it be better than the original? Who knows but with Kareem's lessons learned the man who has followed the same trade path as Jabbar, Chamberlain and O'Neal looks for greatness as he comes to one of the greatest teams NBA has or has ever seen. With Kobe, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash by his side Dwight Howard has all the right men by his side to create the next great Laker team for the next generation. It's the second coming of Magic-via Orlando-complete with the same huge smile. He's already proved he's the leagues best centre in Florida, with all due respect to Andrew Bynum (and of course fellow big great and greatest European Pau Gasol) who has already shown the Lakers have had a young big-man great (a championship certified winner too) who's followed in the footsteps of legend. Now like slapping a sticker to a backboard Dwight is looking to soar to the rafters himself with a more permanent legacy. This is his and the Lakers time. The big-man legend lives on.