On Saturday, Dwight Howard will be featured in another stage of his spectacular season that has seen him rehabilitate his image. For the first time since 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers center will participate in the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
At 34 years old, Howard will be the oldest participant at the annual event since Julius Erving in the second iteration of the event in 1985. He would be, by far, the oldest player to ever win the trophy. Months ago, it was not clear that Howard would even play in the NBA this season, much less participate in an event known for high-flying theatrics but the big fella never lost faith in himself and it has paid major dividends on the court all year.
Howard spoke at his media availability on Saturday and said that a surprise performance at a dunk contest in Venice Beach over the summer inspired him to make a return to the event he won in 2008.
“Last summer, I had a chance to have an actual dunk contest with an actual street dunker on Venice Beach. After we finished dunking, I was like, ‘Man that felt really good, to really get the crowd into it.’ Just enjoy dunking the basketball again. And I was super surprised that I was able to get up and dunk like that. So I said, from that moment on, I’m gonna try to get myself ready for the dunk contest. And here we are here, today. This is great.”
Fortunately for all of us, there’s video of the aforementioned dunk contest on Venice Beach’s iconic courts.
Howard had the most difficult season of his sometimes rocky career last year, playing in only nine games for the Washington Wizards due to injuries. The fact that he was able to come back from that at his age and set his eyes on an exclusively athletic achievement and get to that point is incredibly inspiring and commendable.
Now all that’s left is for him to have a good showing against the competition and bring home the trophy. The 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest will be the third event of All-Star Saturday night which starts at 5 PM PST on TNT.