Every NBA athlete plays for championships. However, very few get to realize that dream. Getting to the league is an incredible achievement, but it’s only one step towards the ultimate goal of taking home a trophy.

This article studies how important winning is in the NBA by breaking down Dwight Howard’s controversial career. Looking at his various peaks and valleys, alongside his own relationship with championships, shows what rings mean to players and why they’re so important.

Big Man, Big Expectations

The NBA is a league obsessed with legacy, and Dwight Howard is one of the best examples of that. He came into the show with some of the highest expectations ever put on a player. While it wasn’t on the same level as Kobe or Lebron, the hype was pretty close.

That only grew as Howard decided to skip college and go directly to the NBA. The Magic took him first overall in the 2004 draft, hoping he would be the piece they needed to turn their entire franchise around. They got that, and then some.

Howard played extremely well during his first years with the team, and only got better with time. However, as his skills grew, so did the expectations. Players always have an incentive to win, but for Howard anything short of a championship would be a failure.

The First Trip

The Magic were a dumpster team when Howard first arrived, but in five short years, he took them from bottom feeders to the top of the eastern conference.

They finished as one of the best teams in the 2008-2009 season, and easily drove through the playoffs. They took down every team in their path before reaching the Finals, but that is where their run came to an end. They played hard, but lost to the Lakers in five games.

The team had another run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the following season but ultimately fell short. After that, their window closed. They traded key pieces and lost a lot of their chemistry. Howard then requested a trade, hoping to go somewhere he could get a ring.

Bouncing Around Town

Not getting a championship in Orlando hung over Howard’s head during his next years in the NBA. He desperately wanted to win it all, but couldn’t find his footing.

He went to the Lakers in 2012, hoping to form a superteam with Kobe, but that experiment ended after one year. He spent the next three years on the Rockets. Though he had a couple of deep playoff runs in Houston, he left the city empty handed as well.

From there he bounced around the league, going to the Hawks, Hornets, and Wizards all for one season. He never came close to NBA glory again until 2019, when he found his way back to Los Angeles.

A Long Realized Goal

Howard, on the tail end of his career, agreed to join Lebron in LA because he thought the move would finally get him a championship. It paid off. The Lakers beat the Heat in six games in the Finals that season, giving Howard his first (and only) ring.

It was a hard-earned victory nearly 20 years in the making. Though Howard didn’t do it as the star, he still got his jewelry and is able to call himself an NBA champion.

Final Words

Howard only got one ring in his career, and he did it as a backup rather than a star. That may not have been the path he wanted to take, but getting something is better than nothing. A ring is hard to get in the NBA. Even earning one as a role player is tough to do.