Athlete Of The Week: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

Can anyone stop the Magics big man?

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

There has been a ton of great NBA centers over the years; Bill Walton, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal and Bill Russell to name a few, but none has ever had the week that Dwight Howard has. Earlier this week, Howard was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive year, a feat unmatched in the long illustrious history of the NBA.

That's right, I said unmatched.

None of those former greats have had the defensive dominance that Howard has shown in his career. His presence, even in this heightened level of athleticism in today's game, is probably one of the most disruptive forces in basketball today, and one of the most unappreciated.

"Locally, if you see him night after night, you realize how good he is," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "On a national level, though, I think people realize he's good, but for some reason it doesn't translate into people thinking of him at the same level as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade."

Howard's game isn't just limited to the defensive end either as the beast of Orlando brings a mean offensive game to the table as well. Through these first two playoff games against the Atlanta Hawks, which the Magic have split, Howard has been the primary offensive threat for Orlando. He is averaging a stunning 39.5 points and 19 rebounds per game, in a whopping 47 minutes of play.

Not only are his numbers impressive but when put in context with how the rest of his team is doing, they are staggering. Take game 2 of the Atlanta series for example. Howard hit 9-of-12 shots and 15-of-19 free throws while the rest of his team went a dismal 18-of-66 from the field.

There is a ton of speculation that Howard is going to leave the Magic when his contract comes up, that seems to be the trend with the NBA's top tier players, but for no he's in Orlando and Magic fans need to take a minute, sit back, and enjoy one of the most dominating big men in the history of the game.

Photo Courtesy of:  ASSOCIATED PRESS