Dominique Wilkins: Dwight Howard Gets Unfairly Judged

In recent years, the NBA has dominated by super teams: The Big Three in Miami, The Big Three in Cleveland, and, potentially, The Big Four in Golden State.

Dominique Wilkins never played on a super team in Atlanta, where he starred from 1982-94, and he never won a championship. But he’s okay with that.

“I’ll put it to you in simple terms: if I had a chance to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing – even if it meant no championship,” Wilkins said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I wanted to play against the best; I didn’t want to play with the best – because that’s the only way I can measure my greatness, by going against the best player. Now I never had another great player to play with in their prime, but we were still one of the best teams in the East. Hey, there’s a lot of guys that didn’t win a championship. Barkley, you look at Karl Malone, you look at Ewing – all those great players haven’t won a championship. Only one team at the end of the year wins. So everybody can’t win.”

Wilkins, a nine-time All-Star, ranks 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 26,668 points. The Hall of Famer is now an executive for the Hawks, who lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague this offseason but signed Dwight Howard.

Howard has a reputation around the league and among fans that isn’t exactly positive, but Wilkins is thrilled to have him on board.

“I’ve been on this kid a long time – since he was in the 11th grade – and I know the guy pretty well,” Wilkins said. “I think a lot of times he’s been unfairly judged. But just to let people know, this guy has a whole lot left in the tank. He’s still very athletic, he’s a very good defensive player, he’s still getting over 12 or 13 rebounds a game and he has a chance of getting 15 to 18 points a night. Those are pretty solid numbers – All-Star numbers – in today’s world. So he’s going to be a great addition for our team, and I’m excited about having him on our team. But a lot of times, he gets unfairly judged.”

It’s possible that Howard’s time in Los Angeles hurt his brand. After all, he goes about his business with a smile; Kobe Bryant goes about it with a scowl.

That might have hurt people’s perception of Howard.

“You can say what you want about him, (but) the guy wants to win,” Wilkins said. “He’s going to play hard for you. He’s going to do the necessary things to be a great teammate. A lot of times when you talk about getting judged unfairly, it puts a stigma on your record and you create a personality about yourself that people are always quick to criticize. But hey, I smiled at people before I played against them, too. I smiled a lot. I joked around before games. But once I got between them lines, you had a problem because I was going to come at you for 48 minutes. And so, again, being loose and smiling and joking worked for me because it helped take my mind off the game so I wouldn’t be so uptight. But everybody’s wired a little different, so I can’t judge him for how he approached the game. Now, if you don’t come to play, that’s another whole thing, but that’s not Dwight Howard.”

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