Athlete, filmmaker, community leader, and philanthropist DWIGHT HOWARD is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, playing center. A member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Howard is an eight-time NBA All-Star, eight-time All-NBA Team honoree, five-time All-Defensive Team member, and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He bears the distinction of being the first player in NBA history to earn the honor of Defensive Player of the Year for three straight seasons.
Born on December 8, 1985, in Atlanta, Georgia, Howard spent his high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Choosing not to follow a career in college basketball, Howard entered the 2004 NBA draft, selected first overall by the Orlando Magic. He went on to set numerous franchise and league records during his tenure with the Magic, including leading the team to the NBA Finals in 2009. Howard would then lend his formidable skills to the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and the Washington Wizards.
One of the NBA's most charismatic veteran players, Howard's towering 6'10 stature and form have electrified fans for nearly 16 years of professional play. With career averages of 17.4 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocked shots per game, he remains one of the best examples of power and personality in contemporary NBA history. Howard returned to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 after a six-year absence, now wearing No. 39, and bolstered by newfound energy and his unwavering love for the game. His added presence has sparked a powerful return to form for the team. The L.A. Lakers currently lead the NBA Western Conference with a 49-14 record, placing them first in the standings with a 5.5-game lead, making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The team also set a new NBA record by winning 18 straight road arena games in conference play. Post-season expectations have them in prime position to land a No. 1 seed.
Before rejoining the L.A. Lakers, Howard faced challenging media and public perception that began to overshadow his early career accomplishments and the respect and admiration of his peers, fans, and predecessors. Howard's return to Los Angeles is not only an opportunity at redemption but an opportunity to open a new chapter that belies his enthusiasm both on and off the court with a genuine appreciation for life that has never wavered. His story is a classic and positive sports narrative, one that defines the spirit of the game at a time when such stories are vital and necessary.
"I'm here to honor a life that my mom fought to make happen," Howard said. "Doctors told her I would not survive when I was born. She'd already lost seven other children. Reasons exist as to why I made it. I learned to draw my strength and perseverance from her. It has to be a good life because of that struggle, and I think being back in L.A. will play a big part in making that happen. That's how you create and ensure a positive legacy."
Now 34, Howard's life and career continue to extend beyond American stadiums and courts, recognized as an international ambassador for the NBA. He helped restore Team USA to Olympic glory at the 2008 Beijing games as a member of the "Redeem Team." Featuring a Hall of Fame coach, two NBA MVPs, and a final roster of 11 NBA All-Stars, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and captain Kobe Bryant, the team was victorious in bringing back the Olympic Gold Medal to American soil.
Off-court, Howard consistently tours the globe in efforts to expand the league's charitable reach, establishing his philanthropic initiatives in the process. In 2011 the NBA Community Assist Award winner expanded his focus and launched the D12 Foundation, whose mission is to "plant seeds, cultivate them and watch them grow."
The D12 Foundation is determined to change the lives of youth in American and International communities one day at a time. The Foundation maintains four pillars when implementing projects: (1) to promote education; (2) to sow seeds of generosity; (3) to champion leadership and inspire dreams; and (4) to inspire hope and recovery in unexpected times.
Howard recently took to social media to extend his support in helping those in need during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. His partnership with Uninterrupted and Old El Paso for the "Taco Tuesday Challenge" is an effort to raise money for Feeding America to continue its programs feeding families across the U.S. struggling during this enduring crisis.
The D12 Foundation continues to support many organizations, including establishing a Teen Playroom at the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children, support of the Beta Center in Orlando, FL and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and a school lunch program at Lake Como Elementary through "Blessings in a Backpack." Internationally, Howard's philanthropic efforts have impacted the lives of youth in Haiti with school programs and lunch programs after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and the establishment of two schoolgirl dormitories in the Republic of Tanzania. In 2011, after the destructive tornados in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Dwight, and the D12 Foundation rolled up their sleeves and helped rebuild homes, stock supplies and supported the town in hope with a BBQ to take their minds off the pain of losing loved ones.
Howard's love of the filmed arts has also offered the athlete a new realm to call his own. Following a long-standing tradition of athletes impacting the entertainment industry, he took his first steps as an actor. Howard has amassed credits with such films as The Equalizer 2, The Three Stooges, and Free Birds, as well appearing on television in The Odd Couple, Liv and Maddie, and Mighty Med. He will next step behind the camera as one of the executive producers of Percy, an independent feature film starring Oscar-winner Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, and Zach Braff. Written by Hilary Pryor and Garfield L. Miller, the film chronicles the life of small-town Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser (Walken), who challenges a major conglomerate when he discovers the company's genetically modified (GMO) canola in the farmer's crop.
"When I read the script for Percy," Howard told Deadline.com upon the project's announcement in December 2018. "I connected with it in a major way. I've always been passionate about farming. Most people don't know that I own a farm outside of Atlanta. I understand the struggles of farmers, the connection to the land, and its natural environment. Percy, as a result, was a natural fit for my first film investment. This film is important, especially with all the environmental issues we are currently facing. Basketball will always be the platform for all the things that I want to accomplish in life. Quite simply, I want to help people."