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
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4
13 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 3
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4
11 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 2
10 Deron Williams Nets PG 3
9 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
8 Chris Paul Hornets PG 2
7 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 1
6 Dwight Howard Magic C 1

• 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.