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The Lessons Of Dwight Howard And LeBron James

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Dwight Howard is a Laker now, and after a year-long saga that saw him privately demand a trade, and publicly declare his loyalty and then privately demand a trade just a few weeks later, Dwight's ready to get reflective on the whole thing. It all went wrong because he didn't want anyone to hate him, he tells ESPN's Ric Bucher:

"That's one of the lessons that I learned, you know. I can't make everybody happy," Howard told Bucher, in an interview for ESPN's "Sunday Conversation."

Okay there, Captain Obvious!

"And it was a tug of war between my feelings and the fans and everybody else and their feelings and what happened to LeBron. And I saw him -- everybody hated him for leaving Cleveland and what he did. I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy. And that was a valuable lesson for me, you know.

"I can't make everybody happy."

Yes, again: File that lesson under things other people have been saying for a solid 18 months.

But anyway ... FOR THE RECORD ... Dwight's saga was not worse than LeBron -- King James gave wry answers to free agency questions long before he was a free agent and it turned his final year in Cleveland into a national spectacle that followed the Cavs wherever they went. LeBron completely disappeared toward the end of the Cavs playoff series and then arrived at his final press conference and told the world, "Me and my team will do what's best" -- his agent team, not the Cavs. Then he held in-person pitch meetings for various teams from around the league, even though it's likely he knew all along he was headed to Miami. All of these moves were well within his rights, but then to go on National TV to announce his decision to leave for Miami and leave his hometown team and hometown fans crushed? Well, that just topped it off. That's Hall of Fame douchebaggery, the likes of which we hadn't seen before and haven't seen since.

Fast forward a few years. There are still a lot of people who don't like LeBron's decision or how it happened, but especially after watching Dwight, we all at least respect that he made it, ignored the backlash, and never looked back. With Dwight, it wasn't so much his decision to leave that people had a problem with, but his refusal to take responsibility and accept the backlash that came with a trade. He played the whole game like an insecure teenager, and because he was scared of becoming a villain, he became a punchline instead.

Now that we've got some distance from The Dwightmare and everyone's getting reflective, it seems like the difference between LeBron and Dwight is the difference between a guy who lost a lot of popularity, and a guy who was scared of becoming the first guy, and instead lost a lot respect.

Then again, Dwight's still getting paid in L.A., LeBron won an NBA title and a gold medal this year, and they'll both be at the center of every NBA conversation that happens anywhere for the next 10 months. Maybe the joke's on anyone who thought popularity or respect mattered in the first place.

(HT to Ball Don't Lie for the interview heads up)