by Sandy Dover / @San_Dova

Dwight Howard was never Superman. I repeat—he was never Superman. There was never a Clark Kent in him and there wasn’t really a Son of Krypton in him, either. Dwight Howard has never been a savior. (You do know that Superman was created, in disguise, as the Judaic Messiah, right?) Dwight isn’t Kal-El, and I don’t think even he literally wants that. No, he was more like The Man of Tomorrow in body, or The Metropolis Kid in mind even…Steel, presently, maybe…but he was never Superman. He could never do it all.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t the best.Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard shines because he smiles. He’s smiled in adversity, he’s smiled in victory, he’s smiled while on high, he’s been smiling in lower times. As fans, we got spoiled. We took the ‘90s for granted. When we saw Patrick Ewing shoot fadeaways from the elbow in Knick blue, we didn’t understand what wouldn’t come. When Alonzo Mourning blocked three shots a game, boarded 10 rebounds and still put up 20-some points primarily as a defensive magnet, we didn’t stop to “think about the future!!” as Jack Napier told his corrupt Gotham connect in 1989’s “Batman.” We must’ve thought the essence of Hakeem’s Dream would extend for years after he left H-Town (or Canada…). And now our beloved Tim Duncan is going. We didn’t appreciate the greatness of the pivot as we now do.

Dwight Howard is no longer the status quo—he is the anomaly.

So when a man manages to average 18 points and almost 13 boards per game, becomes the defining defender of his generation, and one of the all-time greatest big men in NBA history from the ages of 18 to 25 in a seven-year period, we should pay homage to what he truly is…he is neither savior nor messenger, no. He is the message.

Understand that when I say that Dwight was never Superman, I don’t mean that as a takedown. The Big Diesel came and went. That era in black pinstripes and Magic blue was startlingly beautiful and amazing. Never might we see a 300-lb+ monster of a man at 7-2 (really) take over a game in the way that Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal did. The Superman moniker that the media haphazardly gave to Dwight wasn’t meant to dethrone the true Son of Krypton, for he was the last—he became The Eradicator. Dwight ascended into the glory of the shield, because (not unlike the Supermen who came forth in the true Superman’s absence) he represented the essence of that old glory. The aural nature of Dwight’s presence is what, in part, encouraged this literal manchild-turned-man to don red, yellow and blue outside of battle. The costume is Dwight’s nickname, his true identity is his adidas-made uniform. Sometimes the nostalgic essence of a person is just the beginning of something new; it’s a foundation to work from, not to live up to.

Dwight Howard is the message to the new generation of players. He is 6-9 6-11 and around 250 lbs. He is the Shaq that endured. He is the Mayce Edward Christopher Webber that came. He is the Akeem before The Dream. Moreover, he is the impermanent Man of Steel of the present. But even greater, he is the Dwight Howard of the future.

He is the message.

Sandy Dover is a published author, media & fitness professional, and SLAM web columnist & print contributor whose work has been featured and published by US News, Yahoo!, Robert Atwan’s “America Nowand ESPN. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline and via his website at About.Me/SandyDover.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7
40Brook LopezNetsC4
39Joakim NoahBullsC3
38Carlos BoozerBullsPF13
37Kevin GarnettCelticsPF12
36Eric GordonClippersSG7
35Tony ParkerSpursPG10
34Andre Iguodala76ersSG6
33Al JeffersonJazzPF11
32Al HorfordHawksC2
31Stephen CurryWarriorsPG9
30Tim DuncanSpursPF10
29Josh SmithHawksPF9
28Manu GinobiliSpursSG5
27Tyreke EvansKingsPG8
26Rudy GayGrizzliesSF6
25John WallWizardsPG7
24Danny GrangerPacersSF5
23Monta EllisWarriorsSG4
22Joe JohnsonHawksSG3
21Paul PierceCelticsSF4
20Steve NashSunsPG6
19Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF8
18LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF7
17Chris BoshHeatPF6
16Kevin LoveTWolvesPF5
15Rajon RondoCelticsPG5
14Blake GriffinClippersPF4
13Pau GasolLakersPF3
12Russell WestbrookThunderPG4
11Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF2
10Deron WilliamsNetsPG3
9Carmelo AnthonyKnicksSF3
8Chris PaulHornetsPG2
7Dirk NowitzkiMavsPF1
6Dwight HowardMagicC1

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.