August 10, 2012; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard holds his jersey during a press conference held to introduce the three-time defensive player of the year who they aquired in a four-team trade from the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to put up or shut up, Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, you’ve been pampered for three days now. Representatives from five different teams have come to talk to you to tell you had great you are and how much they want you on their team. The likes of Mark Cuban, Mark Jackson, Daryl Morey, Danny Ferry and Mitch Kupchak have showered you with compliments (and even gifts).


Except for one man. One person told you straight up how it was going to be. Kobe Bryant treated you like a man, not like the boy you have a history of acting like. He challenged you instead of coddling you. He put the pressure on you like only the Black Mamba could.


What’s your next move going to be?


You’ve said for months that you want to put yourself in the best position to win titles. You want the best situation for you as a personality. Staring you in the face is the Los Angeles Lakers, the answer to both your demands.


But that’s only if you can handle the demands of playing on the Lakers. In Houston, Golden State, Dallas, or Atlanta, you’ll be seen as a savior. You’ll be the superstar who turned his back on the big bad Lakers and chose their franchise. You’ll be spoiled by the fans, babied by the front office, and never have expectations to live up to. If you want to avoid the pressure, you can take this easy road out.


In LA, you’ll be a new name on a long, but successful list. You won’t be the first franchise player, nor the last. But you’ll join the likes of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and most recently, Pau Gasol as big men who have been centerpieces in title winning teams. You wouldn’t be worshiped by the fans nor catered to by the front office. There would be pressure, but there would almost certainly be titles.


You can go to Atlanta and be surrounded by family and friends. You can go to Dallas, where they’ll build a team of players that best fit your style. You can join young stars in Houston or Golden State and launch them toward legitimacy. But Dallas just missed the playoffs, Golden State has missed 30 of the last 37 playoffs, Atlanta can’t even get out of the 2nd round in the East, and Houston hasn’t been out of the second round since the mid 90s.


In Los Angeles, you’ll join established stars. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash have been in the league for many years. They’ve been All-Stars, named to All-NBA teams, and Bryant and Gasol have won titles. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family have a pedigree that dwarfs other teams. They’ve won 10 titles since 1980, the most in that time frame. They will all demand a high-level of performance, but they’ll promise it leads success.


You’re at a crossroads that will determine your legacy, Dwight. Kobe bright has issued a challenge and a promise: stick with me and I’ll make you a champion. He told you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear. You want to be a champion? You have to learn the ways of a champion. It’s not going to work the way you’re doing it right now, but Bryant will help you tweak it.


You may be mad that someone leaked the information, but that doesn’t change the message. It doesn’t change the ultimatum that’s been delivered. Do you want to be seen as someone who couldn’t handle the demands of one Kobe Bryant, and instead fled for the easier route?


This is your moment, Dwight. You’ve set yourself up for this over the course of your career. The decisions you’ve made have led to this moment. You’re responsible for putting yourself in this situation and you’ll be responsible for how you handle it.

Tags: Dwight Howard Free Agency 2013 Free Agent Los Angeles Lakers NBA

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