By Harvey Hoffman
Sixers newbie Dwight Howard, an eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner, grew up in Atlanta, idolizing Wilt Chamberlain, the legendary Overbrook High and Warriors and Sixers legend.
“I’ve had this affinity for Wilt since I was a little kid,” Howard said during a recent interview. “I never watched him play. What made me like Wilt Chamberlain was I had this talking toy robot, and he used to always talk about Wilt Chamberlain – where he went to school, how tall he was, all his highlights from Kansas, how fast he used to run. I just got infatuated. I wanted to be tall, wanted to be able to jump high, wanted to be able to get all the rebounds.
“Even to this day, it’s like I want to chase Wilt Chamberlain. I want to try to get every rebound, because he’s at the top. I love Wilt Chamberlain.”
Heading into his 17th NBA season, Howard ranks 15th all-time in total rebounds (13,691), a chart that Chamberlain tops (23,924).
Over the course of his life, Howard has consumed as much information as possible about Chamberlain, pouring over books and studying film.
At one point, Howard even considered honoring his favorite player through body art.
“I decided I wanted to get a tattoo on my arm. I searched about a million pictures of him and I found a picture I really love, and I got ready to put it on my arm. The purpose was every time I shot the ball, every time I looked up, I’d see him, because he’s the person who has really motivated me to be the best I can be. Nobody wanted me to get Wilt Chamberlain on my arm at the time, so what [I] did was get a big painting and put it in my room, so I have a big painting of Wilt Chamberlain in my room.”
Hear Dwight Howard discuss Wilt Chamberlain, winning a title, and soul-searching on The BroadCast.
Chamberlain, who spent three seasons with the 76ers and led his hometown franchise to its first NBA title in 1967, capped his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won a second championship with the Purple and Gold in 1972.