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Dwight Howard Needs to Listen to Kobe Bryant and Learn How to Win

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Those that have seen the 1984 hit movie Ghostbusters may recall a scene in the early part of the comic classic.

A conversation between Dan Aykroyd's character and Bill Murray's character takes place in which Aykroyd reminds Murray that in the real world, "they expect results."

Dwight Howard, welcome to the real world.

Dwight Howard is a physically gifted, 27-year-old center for the Los Angeles Lakers. He never attended college, opting instead to make the leap directly from High School to the NBA. Howard's decision was validated by his number one overall selection in the 2004 NBA draft.

A unique combination of physical gifts. Howard stands 6'11" and weighs 240 pounds. With long arms, broad shoulders and unusually good leaping ability for a man his size, in a league of elite athletes Howard still manages to stand-out.

For eight seasons Howard stood-out as the starting center for the Orlando Magic.

A six-time All-Star, and a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner. Howard was the focal point of Orlando's offense as well as their best defensive player.

The Magic made the playoffs in six of Howard's eight seasons in Orlando. In June of 2009 Howard led his team all the way to the NBA Finals where they lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Howard's tenure in Orlando was like an extended version of his senior season in high school. That season he was both the Naismith and Gatorade High School Basketball player of the year. He was also a McDonald's All American.

Howard spent his years in Orlando as the sun that an ever-changing solar system of various Orlando Magic teammates rotated around.

Howard had it easy in Orlando, but he didn't see it that way. He openly feuded with his head coach Stan Van Gundy. Even after Van Gundy was gone, Howard kept the pressure on Magic ownership, and finally last August he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Be careful what you wish for though.

Howard wanted to play for a team that was committed to winning, and the Los Angeles Lakers have been a franchise with a commitment to winning for decades.

On the Lakers Howard would play alongside Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA's greatest scorers as well as a legendary competitor.

Maybe Howard thought his reputation would allow for some leeway with Kobe and the Lakers rabid fans? Maybe Howard envisioned an endless stream of dunks, all courtesy of Bryant, or his other new teammates such as All-Star point guard Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, one of the league's best passing big men?

Building teams takes work, learning new systems takes work, and winning NBA titles, that takes a lot of work.

So far the reviews on Howard's commitment to that work have not been stellar. It doesn't really matter if that's my opinion, but it does matter if it is Kobe Bryant's opinion.

On Wednesday Bryant told ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan that he was not thrilled with Howard's effort.

"We don't have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal," Kobe said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. "We need some urgency.

"[Dwight] has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is.

"It's win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That's just how we [the Lakers] do it. And that's foreign to him."

Bryant has prodigious talent, but he has never been known as the most warm and friendly teammate. He does know a thing or two about winning.

One of Bryant's most impressive qualities is that when he came into the league he had to play second fiddle to Shaquille O'Neal. At the time O'Neal was the league's most dominant center, coincidently O'Neal was also a member of the Orlando Magic prior to joining the Lakers.

Bryant and Shaq didn't always get along, but for the good of the team they made the marriage work and won three NBA titles playing alongside one another.

When that relationship did implode the Lakers chose to stick with the younger Bryant and shipped O'Neal off to the Miami Heat.

Bryant then had to learn to both dominate and win as his team's only bonafide superstar. It didn't happen immediately, the Lakers missed the playoffs and were under .500 in 2004-05, but Bryant eventually learned how to operate as his team's primary superstar.

By 2007-08 Bryant had the Lakers back in the Finals. One year later the Lakers won the NBA Championship and in June of 2010 Bryant led the team to back-to-back titles and claimed his fifth ring in the process.

Bryant's ability to win playing various roles for the same franchise is worth recognizing.

Put simply, Kobe knows how to win. Howard might claim to want to win, but so far the results have been subpar.

How did Howard react to Kobe's public critique?

Not very well. On Thursday he told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin that he was going to play when he was ready.

I mean, why wouldn't I want to play? But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can't leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don't play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody's life is going to go on. I don't want to have another summer where I'm rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That's what I want to do.

Los Angeles Lakers fans probably aren't thrilled that Howard is not up for a summer of rehabbing and would prefer to rest now while his team is actually playing meaningful games.

Howard needs to understand history. Kobe Bryant has done his share of playing through injuries, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale both famously played through painful injuries in a quest to win an NBA Title.

Howard might be the NBA's most talented center, but he's never won a ring. He is playing alongside a teammate who is currently the league's most fierce competitor. Howard may want to take Bryant's opinions into account while he ponders whether or not he wants to spend his summer vacationing or rehabbing.

The Lakers have a record of 23-27, they currently sit three-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Every game is critical and their veteran leader Kobe Bryant knows it.

Unfortunately he just can't get Dwight Howard to grow-up fast enough to realize how urgent the current situation is. If Kobe Bryant's words can't convince Howard to get on the court and play through his current injuries, then the Lakers may want to think twice before offering him a maximum contract extension this summer.

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