Dwight Howard walks past a photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the Staples Center last year. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around this time last year, then-new Lakers center Dwight Howard praised Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and tweeted a photo of himself with the NBA's all-time leading scorer with the words, "Me and
@kaj33 together. For many years to come."
Things are much different now: On Friday, the Rockets' Howard was responding to the Hall of Fame center's criticism of his game and basketball IQ.
Appearing Thursday on ESPN's First Take, Abdul-Jabbar, who won five titles with the Lakers, had this to say about Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Star who led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals and to four 50-win seasons before being traded to Los Angeles:
“Dwight is an extraordinary athlete. He has incredible athletic ability, but basketball is a game where the most important muscle you use on the court is the one between your ears. Dwight's basketball IQ is not up to speed for him to be a dominant player. He has problems at both ends of the court. He doesn't have a go-to move. I had to prepare Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to play against Dwight in the playoffs in 2009 for the world championship. And it was an easy job, because if you take certain things away from him, he doesn't have an answer for it. So he needs to develop some skills, at both ends of the court, that would enable him to consistently contribute to a winning effort. And he hasn't done that.
"He's a wonderful young man. He's intelligent. He's charismatic. He speaks well. But that doesn't mean he has the ability to get on the court and do certain things consistently that would enable his team to win."
Howard said Friday that his departure from the Lakers this summer factored into Abdul-Jabbar's critique.
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"When I joined the Lakers, I was the greatest center," he said, according to CSNHouston.com. "And then when I left, I was the worst; mentally, I wasn’t capable of playing center. I understand that a lot of things are said out of emotion, but I would say that if he has anything to say, I’m here in Houston. We can talk man to man. That’s how I feel about it.”
Howard added: “I’m in a great place right now. And there’s no need for me to go back and forth with him. The one thing I would say is that he’s old enough that whatever I do, doesn’t even matter to him.
"I mean, he’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If I’m Kareem, I’m like, Why? Four championships, five championships, whatever. I’ve been in Airplane, did movies with Bruce Lee. I’m not worried about the young whippersnappers, you know. Just wish him good luck. But people do things different and when I’m done playing I’m going to do whatever I can to help the next generation get better.”
Howard also took issue with Abdul-Jabbar's assessment of his basketball smarts.
“Well, you can’t win three Defensive Player of the Year trophies and be stupid,” he said, per CSNHouston.com. “It just doesn’t happen. ... And I don’t think any coach that has ever coached me has ever said anything about me having a low IQ for basketball. Have I done some dumb stuff on the court before? Every player has. Have we all done something stupid in life? Yes. It’s life, we make mistakes, we learn from them. ... I think I’m very intelligent when it comes to this game of basketball. I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old. I’ve seen a lot and each year I get smarter and better.”