In 2012, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to join with Kobe Bryant, prompting this Sports Illustrated cover and creating immediate championship expectations.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Nash was hurt for much of the year, and Howard, who never fully recovered from off-season back surgery, was a shadow of his former dominant self. The big center left following a disappointing season, in which the Lakers were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.
Since them, NBA fans have heard lots of chatter about Bryant scaring off premier free agents from signing with the Lakers, due to his California-sized ego and his tendency to call out teammates in the press. Whether that’s true, and whether it had any effect on Howard’s decision to jump to the Houston Rockets, remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that the two former teammates never got along well, and there’s no love lost between them.
With the Rockets in La La Land for the season opener last night, Howard pulled down a rebound late in the fourth quarter and swung his elbows to clear space, as he often does. Bryant was in the vicinity, caught an elbow to the jaw and was not very happy about it. He immediately got in Howard’s grill. After the two were separated, Bryant could be seen mouthing “try me” at Howard from across the court. Later on, he shook his head and said, “soft,” perhaps referring to his feelings about Howard.
It’s safe to say these two superstars won’t be exchanging autographs any time soon.
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