Dwight Howard played for five NBA teams prior to arriving in Washington. At every stop he’s worn #12. Not this time.
By Evan Redmon, July 25, 2018
Dwight Howard’s number may not mean much to most people, but to athletes, their jersey number often has a significant sentimental attachment
Dwight Howard’s number has changed. His jersey number, that is.
Stories abound about how pro athletes – and kid athletes too – arrived at their number. Many times, it’s because their idol wore the same digits back in the day.
LeBron James didn’t pick #23 randomly. Nor did the other 40 NBA players who have worn #23 since Michael Jordan retired.
Other times, the coach just gives you a jersey, and you’re that number.
I remember getting the #4 jersey in 5th grade football, because I was the smallest guy on the team, and that was the smallest number available which wasn’t taken.
The coach, a DC legend named Nick Markoff who was the all-everything coach-athletic director at the Maret School for about 347 years, actually said to me:
Ah, Redmon. You really think you’ve earned a jersey? Ok, what’s the smallest number in the box. Is there a fraction?
Not making that up. He actually said that. I remember it all these years later. Wasn’t scarred for life or anything.
Getting Back to Dwight Howard’s Number
Now that I’ve wiped the tears from my eyes, where were we? Oh yeah, Dwight Howard’s number.
See, Howard has worn #12 for a long time in the NBA, 14 years to be exact. He even wore it in his pre-NBA days back at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Howard skipped college and went directly into the NBA, mainly because Kevin Garnett did.
So he’s probably never not worn #12.
Let me tell you something. When a player has had a number for that long, they get attached to it. Really attached to it.
Furthermore, when a player had had the kind of success that Howard has – 8 All-Star games, each time earning All-NBA Team honors, 5-time All-Defensive member, and oh yeah, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year – you get to keep your number wherever your travels may take you.
Except, apparently, Washington, DC.
Wizards’ Kelly Oubre wasn’t interested in giving up his number to Dwight Howard
“Y’all gotta tell Kelly, man, I need that No. 12 … Don’t give me no crazy numbers. It’s either 8, 21, or No. 1.” – Dwight Howard on giving up his jersey number to Kelly Oubre.
The calm over Dwight Howard’s number may signal an awareness of his reputation
Howard is aware of the criticism. You know the criticism to which I refer.
- He’s a bad teammate, a selfish teammate
- He doesn’t check dudes on D anymore with the effort that won him 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards
- There may not be any outright diva-ism, but he does little things that get under his teammate’s skin
- He’s a locker room cancer
“I’ll address that any day. I ain’t no bad person.” Howard said during a recent live Instagram session. “I ain’t never been no bad person in the locker room. All this stuff is just lies to try to justify why I was traded, or why I left the team.
“But anybody who knows me, who’s been around me, on and off the court, I ain’t never been no a–hole, I ain’t never been no mean person. I would never try to destroy a team, but that’s a narrative that they always tried to say to me because they couldn’t say nothing else.”
So when he arrived in Washington, he didn’t take the jersey thing too seriously – or pretended not to. Nevertheless, you know it had to eat at him.
It Means Nothing, and It Means Everything
It’s may seem like a silly thing to focus on, but the truth is, players care a great deal about the number across their back. It’s their identity. Fans see their players out sometimes and they’ll simply refer to that player by the number:
Hey there number 12, I see you!
It’s not a mistake that I remember that jersey dolling-out session with my coach all those years ago. It meant something. I was determined to make the most out of that #4 jersey, regardless of why it was given to me.
Then some guy came along shortly thereafter and played for the Packers, narrowly edging me out as the greatest #4 of all time. OF ALL TIME!
So maybe this whole Dwight Howard’s number thing signals his desire to be a better teammate – assuming the rumors are true to any extent.
Howard said he wants the Wizards to be his last stop in the NBA. Maybe someday, a #21 jersey will lifted up into the rafters at a certain arena in Chinatown.