No, Howard’s choice to bolt the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets shows a decided lack of foresight for a center with a magnetic personality, good looks and scads of media potential, one who has already grappled with injuries and should be thinking more about his post-basketball future.
Unless Howard has a burning desire to go into the oil business, he would seem to be cutting himself off from a Hollywood establishment that has opened the door in the past to Laker stars, particularly centers. Who could forget Wilt Chamberlain in “Conan the Barbarian,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Airplane” or Shaquille O’Neal in, um, oh let’s just go with “Steel” to be nice about things.
Howard already came to L.A. with a theatrical flair, complete with his nickname (“Superman”) and showboating antics at the slam-dunk competition, where he preened by wearing a cape and stuffing the ball on a 12-foot basket.
The bottom line is NBA stars have fleeting careers, and the smart ones are invariably being counseled to contemplate life once they have to start wearing long pants. And while it’s not true for everyone, Howard might be one of those players who winds up leaving money on the table, long term, by snagging his big-bucks deal with the Rockets now, and putting 1,500 miles between himself and all those agents and studio moguls sitting courtside in Staples Center, telling people they know Jack Nicholson. Small wonder Time Warner Cable and the prospect of a TV show reportedly became part of the Lakers’ bid to woo him.
Granted, nobody will need to hold any bake sales for Howard either way, but for many pro athletes, the years they spend in the league are essentially a launchpad for what might come next. (By the way, don’t say this is about a burning desire to win championships. Anybody that committed to titles would teach himself to become a better freethrow shooter.)
Instead of thinking that way, Superman and his brain trust have opted for the instant green, and the sweltering red-state confines of Texas, where he at least knows he’ll be more articulate than the governor. Here’s hoping Howard’s latest pivot move works out for him, but frankly, that lack of vision just might turn out to be his Kryptonite.