It can't be all negative. I won't waste a spot on Mr. Howard being drafted #1 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, or his first career regular season game (the first of numerous double-doubles). I also don't need to show off Dwight's 3 straight Defensive Player of the Year trophies. Nor will I dedicate any weird high school highlights, Team USA moments, or All-Star Weekend spectacles 'list'. He's done too much in his 8 seasons in a Magic jersey to dilute this list with anything that's not an Orlando game with a physical stat line. These are not rankings. They're all superb performances. But they are sequential when it comes to the calendar. A common theme you'll notice is that all eight of these games that I've picked and prodded out of dozens of fabulous games were victories. So let's begin.
* The Stars Are Bright -
This was just Dwight's second of many 20-20 games in a career ready to rocket out of the ground. April 15, 2006. Believe it or not, this B-Hill 36-46 Magic squad was still in the playoff hunt at this point. With the postseason still a feasible dream, Dwight would put up an outrageous 28 points and 26 rebounds in a 102-97 win over the Sixers towards the end of the 2005-2006 season. This is what I refer to as his sophomore 'growing up' game that officially made every basketball viewing person on Earth know that Dwight would be a superstar one day. It's something that's near impossible not to thoroughly enjoy if you were there in person or watching on television just at how hard #12 worked to help win that game. I was within the first dozen rows at center court of Amway Arena on that evening just enamored at his lead-by-example play. You can't find a clip of the game, so the recap will have to suffice.
* "You've got to be kidding me!" -
Well that's one way to break a 104-104 tie and avoid almost certain overtime. For a third year big man, 30 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 blocks, and 3 assists against championship caliber opponents will always be a superb stat line. This was back when Dwight was actually making some free throws as the 8-for-12 from the stripe indicates. I bet you Jacque Vaughn still remembers this game from February 9, 2007. Tim Duncan still has nightmares over that game-winning dunk. It had to be super emasculating to be jumping as high as you possibly can, only to see another man soar clearly way above you for a jam. I still have never again heard David Steele go that berserk and off the chain as he did witnessing pre-Superman literally soar. While most of the globe has seen this play from the Spurs' broadcast point of view where Sean Elliott is still senselessly babbling up a storm at what he witnessed, Orlando got to see this rare feat with a phenomenal play-by-play crew. I'll admit, it would've been better if Dwight celebrated with Hedo or Jameer first. Instead, he had to settle for Chuck Arroyo. Yes, Carlos actually provided an efficient 12 points. I still don't know where Hedo went after that epic inbounds pass and strut-off. He should've been getting lifted up for such an amazing pass. The Magic had no right to win this game. These are the Spurs in their prime still and Brian Hill had Trevor Ariza and Grant Hill sitting out. The comeback is still branded in many Magic fans' brains still where it's become folklore. It helps when J.J. Redick had a career game and Jameer Nelson's score-first approach out-dueled Tony Parker. I always give B-Hill credit for not being shy to put Jameer in the game as a shooting guard. Somewhere around this middle point of his third season is when Dwight has to be respected for his offense. It's not just stifling defense anymore.
* Triple-Double -
* Warning: Elbow Crossing -
April 28, 2009. Dwight's 24 points and 24 rebounds in a 91-78 Game 5 win to put Orlando up 3-2 of this very ugly first round series was the start of things to come that postseason for Mr. Howard. Well, once Dwight served his Game 6 suspension that saw Marcin Gortat go nuts. An elbow to Samuel Dalembert gave David Stern permission to suspend Dwight for that 1 game. Thankfully, it ended up working out for Orlando. That Game 5 did indeed also claim Courtney Lee's face and knocked him out a few days. 'Leesus' in masked form and the emergence of Redick, Alston, and Pietrus as bigger scoring options fueled our Finals run. So we can thank Dwight's ridiculously powerful elbow throws for helping to rally Stan Van Gundy's squad.
* Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals -
May 30, 2009. Yes, this was on my 21st birthday and it was a given that every Magic fan would put this in their personal top ten victories list. Dwight's 40 points, 4 assists, and 14 rebounds guided Orlando back to the Finals for the second time in franchise history. There's not much more I can say about it. I've lamented and glorified one of our team's pinnacle moments in previous postings. Savor the 103-90 video clip.
* A Crack of Thunder -
Here were two of the NBA's regular season elite teams going at each other. Two 'small' markets who were defying the trend of large city franchises dominating the circuit. Dwight has an interesting history of putting up gigantic numbers against OKC. Our team doesn't always win, but on February 25th of the '10-'11 season Orlando took down the solid Thunder squad at Amway Center 111-88 behind Dwight's 40 points, 6 blocks, and 15 rebounds. Up to this point in time, that 2010-2011 campaign is statistically Howard's greatest. The man put up even more beastly numbers than we were used to. It's such a shame that SVG led squad ended up choking grotesquely.
* Move Over Wilt -
January 12, 2012. It's okay, Magic fans, it's not greedy if you think Dwight easily should've scored fifty points on this night. It's not exactly one of the better Wilt Chamberlain records a player could break, but 39 free throw attempts is a new NBA best that truly may never be topped. Most of that is credited to Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson's stupidity. Of course, the 45 points is what we Magic fans are choosing to remember right now since that's Howard's current regular season career-high which he matched from a previous game against the Bobcats in 2009. He did put up 46 points and 19 boards in Game 1 of that Hawks 2011 disappointment of a 1st round series just the summer previous. The 23 rebounds in a 117-109 road victory is just the cherry on top. Dwight hasn't had more than maybe a handful of games where he's truly taken over late in a 4th quarter (see the 8-0 run to end the contest). His hook shot was masterful in Oakland. You can watch the entire contest here. He's had a few 40-15s, but this is the only 40-20 Dwight has posted up to this point in his NBA career.
* 'Beat The Heat' One More Time -
Let's ignore the 6-of-18 free throw shooting and look at everything else. 9-of-13 from the field. 24 points and 25 rebounds against Miami's 'Big 3'. No Lockout excuses can be made on this March 13th night. This was the original farewell date to the Amway Center faithful. Because the trade deadline was March 15th, and all that remained between that final Sunshine State rivalry game and Dwight getting traded was a quick trip to play the Spurs on the 14th. So for all the supposed distractions and tumult Orlando was going through, to still muster up a gutsy and ballsy 104-98 overtime win in front of the Magic faithful is definitely a special moment. Comebacks are always fun.