Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant haven’t exactly gotten along in the past. But now that Howard has redeemed himself during his second stint with the Lakers, he’s trying to extend an olive branch to his former adversary.
“If I can get all the Laker fans to lobby to get Kobe to help me in the dunk contest, that’d be really good,” Howard told reporters on Wednesday. “That’d be awesome.”
Howard is the only confirmed participant in the 2020 dunk contest thus far. But he’s already began fairly extensive preparations for the festivities on Feb. 15.
“Now that I’m competing against some way younger guys, I have to find a way to really make the dunk contest fun for the fans and really entertaining,” Howard said. “So came up [with] some pretty good ideas, so things are going to be a lot of fun.”
Howard was once a dunk contest staple, but last competed in 2009. The 34-year-old famously donned a Superman costume to beat Nate Robinson in the 2008 contest.
“I think I’m the oldest dunker in the dunk contest ever,” Howard said.
Howard had, of course, a rocky first stint with the Lakers. Mostly because he received the bulk of Kobe’s ire, but also because he wasn’t nearly the same on the court. Kobe repeatedly questioned his mentality. Kobe called him soft. Howard was eventually jettisoned to Houston after just a season, one in which the Lakers had championship expectations but were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, after several journeyman years, Howard has made himself useful as a key reserve on a team that is back at the top of the West.
So useful that he’s comfortable enough to implore Laker fans—once the source of much hostility—to help mend his relationship with Kobe.
“Have I asked him? Not yet,” Howard said. “Just got to get the fans behind me first. Setting the table. Need you guys. ‘Hey, Kobe, can you get in the dunk contest with Dwight?’ That’d be great.”