The NBA released its official list of the top 75 players of all time earlier this season to commemorate the league’s 75th season in existence. Arguably the biggest snub to not be voted in among 76 players (there was one tie leading to an extra player named) was Dwight Howard.
The Los Angeles Lakers center is widely viewed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer once he retires and his days as the superstar on the Orlando Magic are some of the most dominant two-way performances of the last 20 years. That left many fans wondering how the 35-year-old did not make the cut.
Speaking to Taylor Rooks for Bleacher Report, however, Howard said he was not surprised to not be voted to the list. The big man made it very clear that he belonged in that group but that “politics” prevented it.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be on it,” Howard said. “I already knew. I knew soon as they made a 75 list, they’re not going to put me on it. I might as well forget about it. I knew that they was not going to put me on that list. […] I most definitely should be on that list but it’s so okay. I’m not upset about it. I was for probably like 30 seconds. I said ‘you know what, life is great. I’m alive, I’m still playing basketball in my 18th season. Who cares about a list made by people who ain’t never bounced a basketball before? Who cares?'”
That may be a vague statement but it’s not untrue. Howard has not been a likable figure in the league since he forced his way out of Orlando and only regained some of the goodwill he had lost as a role player in his second stint with the Lakers while contributing to a title run. It certainly would not be surprising if voters, which were comprised of both former players and members of the media, simply due to not liking him.
It should also be noted that while they were not explicitly forced to do so, voters decided to retain every player that was named to the NBA Top 50 list 25 years ago, limiting their new selections and squeezing spots that could go to Howard or other snubs like former Pau Gasol.
Still, even with that limitation placed, it’s hard to see a world in which Howard was not one of the top 25 players of the last 25 years. Just look at his resume. An eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA selection, five-time All-Defense selection, two-time block champ, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year should get on the list, before even mentioning his ring or the fact that he took the Orlando Magic, who have barely sniffed the playoffs since he left them, to the NBA Finals as their lone star. In fact, Howard is the only eight-time All-Star or All-NBA selection in NBA history to not make the list.
These lists are generally pointless and definitely subjective. But they clearly matter to the players and they also matter to the next generation of basketball fans who learn about the game and its history this way. You can tell, even as he downplays it, that Howard is disappointed by his exclusion and he should be.