The Education of Juwan Howard
Looking back at a feature of the veteran forward from SLAM 17.
SLAM: Do you wish you had done anything differently?
JH: I think I should have been more of a vocal leader our freshman year. I was more like a silent leader; I didn’t want to say much and I didn’t want to bring any controversy to the team. I regret not being a vocal leader during that time, but I was a leader by example.
SLAM: How did you feel about Mitch Albom’s Fab Five?
JH: I didn’t read the whole book, just one chapter. I wasn’t too enthused about the book in the first place.
SLAM: He said you liked it…
JH: You’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth, okay? I thought at times we got used at the University of Michigan. Truly, universities make a lot of money of these athletes, and I feel they deserve to get paid. They deserve some kind of compensation. We used to get upset about people writing books, making t–shirts with our faces on them, and we couldn’t get any money. We were in college, struggling. You know how college is–you don’t have any money in your pocket. I think they need to pay athletes, especially if they want them to stay in school.
SLAM: You left school early for the NBA, but there was immediate controversy due to a hold–out before your rookie year. What happened?
JH: I came out at a time when there was no rookie salary cap. And there was a market. The market said that what the No. 5 pick deserved was a little bit more than what the No. 5 pick got the year before and a little less than what the No. 4 pick got the same year. What I was offered was under the market. I held out, I got really upset with the situation and it got ugly. But things happen in mysterious ways. I signed the contract and didn’t get hurt.
I had the opportunity to sign [another] contract last summer. They compensated for it, more than I had asked for. These owners aren’t stupid; [Pollin] knew what he was paying me, and he must be making a lot of money to be able to pay me like that. I was very thankful, but I’ve got to keep in mind that I worked hard. My rookie year, we lost 61 games. That was more games than I’d ever lost in my high school and college careers put together. And that was tough on me. But I still went out and gave them 110%.
SLAM: You don’t seem like a greedy person. When you really look at it, what’s a few million dollars when you’re making the amount of money NBA players are making? But some people would say you decided to sign with Miami because they had the biggest checkbook.
JH: If it was a money issue, I would have signed with Detroit. They offered the most.
SLAM: More than Miami?
JH: They offered more than what Washington is paying me right now. [Ed.’s note: The Detroit offer was reported to be $112 million.] Money doesn’t buy happiness. I wanted to go where I’d be happy.
SLAM: Why not Detroit? You played in Michigan.
JH: I didn’t know if Allan Houston was going to be back. I heard through the grapevine like everyone else that he didn’t want to come back, and I didn’t want to be there alone, just Grant Hill and me. I have much respect for Grant, he’s one of the premier players in the league, but I thought we needed more than just Grant. But Detroit is doing well this year.
SLAM: So why Miami?
JH: I wanted to be in Washington, but I had to make a business decision. Washington had to make a business decision for themselves, and I respected that. Yes indeed it hurt because this is where my heart haw always been, and this is where I thought my future was at. But you always have to go to Plan B, and you always have to have a second option and a third option.
I weighed all the pros and cons of each team that was truly interested in me. I saw Miami as a young team looking to rebuild, an organization and an area that were excited about having basketball with a good young center like Alonzo. I thought the two of us could build a new nucleus. The third option was New York or Detroit. [But] Miami had a coach who was a proven winner, who’s won six championships. My ultimate goal, like a lot of the other players out here, is to win a championship one day.
SLAM: Is there any animosity between you and Pat Riley?
JH: I don’t have any animosity toward [Riley]. I don’t know what he would say about me; I haven’t talked to him. Everyone was looking forward to me going to Miami and seeing what happened. It’s not my fault.
SLAM: Why do you think Washington fans like you so much? Aside from Chicago and Jordan; there’s not another city in the league that embraces an individual player the way Washington fans have embraced you.
JH: I guess they don’t see me as a phony. What I do off the court, I do from the heart. I do it because I want to do it. When I go out on the floor, I approach the game like a business. That’s my job, and I respect it and I love what I do. There’s not too many people in this world that work and get paid the amount of money that we do for something that they love doing. Something that you’ve dreamed about since you were a little kid. I appreciate it. And I guess people see that.