words // Brandon Richard
For the first time ever, Dwight Howard will take an NBA court as an opponent of the Orlando Magic when the Los Angeles Lakers host his former team later tonight. It's not quite the boo fest expected when Dwight makes his return to Amway Arena, but a surreal sight for Magic fans nonetheless.
Once upon a time, Howard was Orlando's favorite son. The fun-loving almost 7-footer could do no wrong in a city that was in need of a new hero after Shaq sailed, Grant ailed and T-Mac bailed. His all smiles approach to life was the perfect fit for the Magic Kingdom. Sometimes he was (and continues to be) ridiculed for being too happy, but Magic fans never wavered in their support.
With Dwight, Magic fans celebrated an NBA Finals appearance, multiple All-Star selections, multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards and an Olympic gold medal. Perhaps most importantly, Dwight saved the franchise from relocation and was almost single-handedly responsible for Amway Arena being built. This was truly his city.
Where things went wrong, we'll probably never truly know. Otis Smith's piss-poor job in assembling a competent roster probably triggered Dwight's departure. The awkward presser with Stan Van Gundy certainly completed it. Despite it all, there were good times - and that's why we're here.
In celebration of Dwight's first game against his old mates, we're taking a look back at every adidas Basketball shoe Dwight wore as a member of the Orlando Magic. Team USA and All-Star sneakers included. Along with the photos are season recaps and tidbits about the shoes. What's Dwight's best shoe of all-time? Scroll through and cast your vote below.
2004 - a3 Superstar Ultra II
After the highly charged Okafor vs. Howard debate, the Orlando Magic selected the high school sensation with the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.
Joining a depleted team, Howard made an immediate impact. He became the youngest player in NBA history to average a double double in the regular season with 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. Howard also became the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 10 rebounds in a season, the youngest NBA player ever to record at least 20 rebounds in a game and the youngest player to start all 82 games in his rookie season.
Dwight was selected to play in the 2005 NBA Rookie Challenge and was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie Team. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Okafor and Ben Gordon.
Following the success of the a3 Superstar Ultra, adidas Basketball dropped a sequel in 2004. The high-top features a supple leather and textured synthetic upper, wrap-around stripes, ghillie-style enclosed lacing system, mesh tongue, padded collar and a heel pull-tab. An advanced a3 midsole provided cushioning, stabilization and energy return.
Achievements: First Team All-Rookie
Dwight's pairs were customized with "D12H" embroidery near the forefoot and have the distinction of being the first shoes he ever wore as a pro.
2005 - a3 Forum
With 20 pounds of added muscle, Howard set out to expand on his successful rookie campaign. In a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats on November 15, he became the youngest player to ever to post a 20-point, 20-rebound game. Overall, he averaged 15.8 points and 12.5 rebounds, ranking second in the NBA in rebounds per game, offensive rebounds, and double doubles; and sixth in field goal percentage.
The Magic continued to show improvement under Howard's watch, but finished with a record of 36-46 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Howard's second shoe was the a3 Forum, equipped with the brand's springy midsole cushioning technology. Other features included a synthetic leather upper and midfoot cross-strap for a lockdown fit.
2005 - a3 SS Structure
Seeking a modern looking silhouette, adidas introduced the a3 Superstar Structure in 2005. Features included a synthetic leather upper, full-a3 midsole, molded 3-Stripes, an adiPRNE insert in the forefoot, compression-molded EVA midsole and a non-marking rubber outsole.
2006 - a3 SS Power II
Dwight finished his sophomore campaign in the adidas a3 Superstar Power II. The SS Power II was consistent with what we had seen from adidas Basketball in recent years. Synthetic construction, spring-loaded a3, molded EVA and a heavy duty rubber outsole.
Howard also for the a3 SS Power II in the 2006 World Championships, where Team USA suffered a premature semifinal defeat at the hands of Greece. Despite the loss, Dwight would have a shot at redemption following his commitment to the United States for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
2006 - Lyte Speed GCS
In season three, Howard continued to develop into the player Orlando hoped he would be when they selected him in '04. Playing 82 games for the third consecutive year, Dwight was selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve for the first time in his career. His high level of play was instrumental in the Magic making the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Orlando was swept by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Detroit Pistons in the first round.
Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and finished first in the NBA in total rebounds, second in field goal percentage, and ninth in blocks. He was further recognized as one of the best players in the league when he was named to the All-NBA Third Team at the end of the 2006–07 season.
Achievements: All-Star (1), Third Team All-NBA (1)
The Lyte Speed GCS was really one of the first times we saw the adidas brand as we know it now shift to making speed-based silhouettes for bigger players. GCS stood for Ground Control System, which adapted to the playing surface to give athletes motion control while making cuts.
Torsion System design provided a stable midfoot structure. A padded tongue, collar and form-fitting foam insole enhanced comfort. High-traction tread was added to the outsole for grip.
2006 - Pro Model S
Dwight's time in the Pro Model S was extremely limited. The model featured the brand's classic 3-Stripe shell toe and a molded EVA sole for lightweight cushioning. Remaining elements included non-Slip lining, adiPRENE technology, a TORSION system bar and a non-marking rubber outsole.
2006 - GCS Decade
Ground Control was carried over to the adidas GCS Decade, part of Dwight's 06-07 sneaker rotation. The mid-cut model featured a leather and nubuck build with perforated panels for superior breathability. An EVA midsole provided cushioning, while traction was upheld with a non-marking rubber outsole.
2007 - Bounce Artillery II
From a3 to GCS to BOUNCE. Dwight wrapped up his third season with the Magic in the Bounce Artillery II, which featured BOUNCE technology in the heel for maximum energy return.
What some people may not know is that the Bounce Artillery II marked the first time a Dwight shoe was sold to the public. Prior to All-Star Weekend, a limited run of pairs in the All-Star colorway with "12" embroidery was released on adidas.com.
The weekend really marked Dwight's arrival as a star in the league, particularly his participation in the Slam Dunk Contest. His famed "Sticker Dunk" didn't score high with a panel of judges that included Michael Jordan, but it was an instant viral hit.
2007 - TS Lightspeed
After signing free agent forward Rashard Lewis, the Magic took another step toward being contenders. Howard led the Magic to their first division title in 12 years and to the third seed for the 2008 NBA Playoffs. After advancing in dominant fashion against Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors, the Magic met an old foe in the Detroit Pistons in round two. Despite Dwight's improvement, the veterans proved to be superior once again and won the series 4-1.
As a new star in the league, Dwight joined adidas Basketball's "Brotherhood" campaign, where he starred in TV and print ads with players like Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Gilbert Arenas and Tim Duncan. To start the season, the Brotherhood "bigs" were each given Player Edition make-ups of the Team Signature Lightspeed. The first official Howard sneaker release features an Orlando-inspired black, white and blue colorway with Howard-specific details.
Sleek and fast, the TS Lightspeed featured an upper comprised of synthetic materials and woven textiles for extra strength. adiPRENE in the forefoot maximized energy return, while lateral forefoot guardrails enhanced quickness and stability.
A second limited edition Dwight colorway of the TS Lightspeed released celebrating his involvement in the 2007 NBA China Games.
Achievements: All-Star (2), First Team All-NBA (1), Second Team All-Defense (1), Rebounding Champion (1)
2008 - TS Pro Model
Howard's strong played earned the fans' vote for Eastern Conference All-Star starter. By mid-season, he was leading the league in double-doubles and had recorded give 20 point/20 rebound games.
The 2008 Slam Dunk Contest marked the night Dwight became a full-fledged NBA superstar. After a disappointing finish in the previous contest, Dwight stepped up the showmanship to put a stranglehold on the 2008 title. Amongst several impressive dunks on the night was the "Superman" dunk, which was more of a throw-in, but still managed to steal the show. On Dwight's feet for the epic toss was his personal colorway of the TS Pro Model, which you can still buy in some sizes from overstock sellers.
Another Brotherhood release, the TS Pro Model blended heritage styling cues with modern performance technology. The shoe's full-grain and patent upper offered comfort and strength. adiPRENE in the forefoot maximized energy efficiency, while its placement in the heel absorbed shock. Support and flexibility were provided by a Torsion System and a non-marking adiWEAR outsole delivered durability in high-wear areas.
2008 - TS Lightswitch
Many will remember the TS Lightswitch for being a low-top Gilbert Arenas signature model, but post players like Garnett, Duncan and Howard wore custom mids during the 07-08 season. The Lightswitch featured a synthetic build with adiPRENE cushioning and a 360-degree grip rubber outsole.
2008 Olympics - Rapid Bounce & TS Commander
Following a string of disappointing international results, the United States sent a squad simply known as the "Redeem Team" to reclaim gold at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Howard, who fell short with Team USA at the 2006 Worlds, started at center for the Olympic team.
Though he caught a hot one from Rudy Fernandez in the gold medal game, Dwight's averages of 11 points and 6 rebounds helped the Americans do exactly what they set out to do - redeem.
Dwight started the tournament off in a USA colorway of the Rapid Bounce. BOUNCE technology supported this shoe built with synthetic patent leather and a perforated EVA tongue.
Achievements: Olympic Gold Medal (1)
He concluded the Games in his next TS model, the Commander.
2008 - TS Commander
Following the Olympic experience, Howard got off to a strong start in 08-09. At the halfway point of the season, Howard led the league in rebounds and blocks, and was among the league leaders in field goal percentage. He received a record 3.1 million votes to earn the starting berth on the Eastern Conference team for the 2009 NBA All-Star game.
Behind the concept that guards create and bigs command, adidas Basketball introduced the TS Creator and Commander series in Fall 2008. Dwight wore a custom version of the latter, which was also released in stores.
The TS Commander featured a synthetic and ballistic mesh build with an adjustable ankle strap for lockdown fit. SELECT System interchangeable sockliners gave wearers the opportunity to customize the characteristics of the shoe. Compression molded EVA handled the midsole cushioning and a herringbone pattern outsole delivered traction.
2009 - TS Bounce Commander
All-Star Weekend once again proved to be Dwight's favorite stage, as his "Superman" persona made a return for a showdown with "Kryptonate" Robinson in the Slam Dunk Contest. Full of elaborate gimmicks, the contest was eventually won by Robinson, who did a leapfrog dunk over Howard to help seal the deal.
Howard led Orlando to its second straight Southeast Division title and the third seed for the 2009 NBA Playoffs with a 59–23 record. He also became the youngest player ever to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, achieving a goal he had set for himself before the start of the season.
After All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson went down with a shoulder injury prior to the break, streetball legend Rafer "Skip-2-My-Lou" Alston stepped in to fill the void.
In the best Magic playoff run of the Howard Era, Orlando got by the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers to set up an NBA Finals meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Remember Courtney Lee's blown layup? The play itself didn't decide the outcome of the Finals, but it certainly stopped Orlando from ever gaining and real momentum in the series. On an inbounds play during the final seconds of regulation in Game 2, Hedo Turkoglu lobbed an inbound pass toward Lee right at the basket, but the shot was badly missed. The Lakers would go on to take Game 2 in overtime and two of the next three to win the 2009 NBA Finals.
Achievements: All-Star (3), First Team All-NBA (2), First Team All-Defense (1), Blocks Champion (1), Rebounding Champion (2), Defensive Player of the Year (1)
Bringing BOUNCE to Team Signature, adidas dropped the adidas TS Bounce Commander in 2009. Dwight wore four different colorways of the Bounce Commander, including "Manchild," "Away," "All-Star" and a Superman-inspired pair he laced up in the Dunk Contest.
2009 - TS Commander LT
After the disappointing NBA Finals result, the Magic returned to the court with an all-new look. Hedo Turkoglu struck gold with a large contract offer from the Toronto Raptors, so Orlando attempted to fill his void by bringing in NBA vet Vince Carter and young prospect Ryan Anderson. They also signed forwards Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes to free agent deals.
The lack of chemistry was evident to start the season, but the Magic were still able to put long strings of victories together. By the All-Star Break, Orlando was 36-18 and wouldn't do much regular season losing after that.
Actually debuted in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the TS Commander LT was a departure from the bulkier silhouettes and was one of the more sleek models delivered to big men in years. The mid-top featured adiPrene forefoot cushioning and a TORSION system for midfoot arch protection. Dwight's released 'Home' and 'Away' pairs featured star detailing on the midsoles as a salute to the Magic, while another limited edition pair dropped decked out in Superman graphics.
2010 - Supernatural Commander
A return trip to the NBA Finals for the Magic looked promising after the Magic won 9 of their final 10 regular season games and swept through the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks in the first two series of the playoffs. However, Orlando ran into a healthy and hungry Boston Celtics team on a mission for a second title. Orlando battled back from a 3-0 series deficit, but ultimately feel short after dropping Game 6 in Boston.
Achievements: All-Star (4), First Team All-NBA (3), First Team All-Defense (2), Rebounding Champion (3), Blocks Champion (2), Defensive Player of the Year (2)
Released in home and away Dwight colorways, the Supernatural Commander was an instant favorite due to its Feet You Wear-inspired PureMotion tooling. The Robbie Fuller designed shoe featured functional branding, the 3-Stripes also serving as a midfoot support structure for a lockdown fit. This release would mark Dwight's final Team Signature sneaker before receiving his own signature model.
2010 - Beast Commander
Orlando entered the 2010-2011 season with high hopes and a hot start. However, the team went on a slide in December that prompted GM Otis Smith to a few huge trades that would significantly alter the team's outlook. Orlando acquired Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and re-acquired Hedo Turkoglu. Players sent out included Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. Initially, the trades worked out for the best. The Magic started the new era with nine-straight wins. However, that would quickly change.
For the start of the 2010-2011 NBA season, adidas laced Dwight with his first official signature shoe, the Beast Commander. Design staples like SprintSkin construction and SprintFrame support, made their debuts, while PureMotion tooling was carried over. Dwight-specific call-outs included his famous "Hey Wooooooooorld" Twitter greeting on the heel tab. The release was ushered in by adidas' "Fast Don't Lie" campaign, which co-starred actor Ken Jeong as the humorous Slim Chin.
2011 - Superbeast
The big deadline deals backfired in the Magic's face when it mattered the most. Despite finishing the season with 52 wins and 4th Overall in the Eastern Conference, Orlando was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round after dropping a 4-2 series to the Atlanta Hawks. Dwight scored a playoff career high 46 points in Game 1, which the Magic still managed to lose by ten points.
Achievements: All-Star (5), First Team All-NBA (4), First Team All-Defense (3), Defensive Player of the Year (3)
The Superbeast may very well rank as the top of Dwight's signature shoe. Featuring a strong design with a SprintSkin-laden upper, the Superbeast strayed away from PureMotion and introduced visible ALIVE cushioning and double-stacked Z-Torsion to the Howard signature line. However, the "Beast" name wouldn't last much longer.
2011 - adipower Howard
Fresh off a lockout and entering a shortened season, the Magic started 2011 with lower expectations than they had in previous years. However, even with a noticeable lack of talent in comparison to other contenders, Dwight carried the load and got Orlando off to a strong start. The Magic went into the break with the sixth best overall record and were seeded third in the Eastern Conference. However, everybody knew that Dwight's future in the Magical Kingdom would have to be addressed at the mid-point.
Following a trademark dispute, adidas scrapped the "Beast" name and introduced the adipower Howard signature line. The first shoe to carry the name picked up where the Superbeast left off, featuring SprintSkin construction, large 3-Stripe branding, TWIST torsion and visible cushioning.
2012 - adipower Howard 2
Dwight's final stretch with the Magic started off with much promise. While trade rumors loomed, Dwight and Orlando played host to the 2012 All-Star Game, and the love affair between Superman and the city had seemingly been rekindled.
About a month later, after bonding with his teammates and speaking with owner Rich DeVos, Dwight signed a waiver to opt-in for another season with the Magic. In a press conference held after the decision was made, Dwight cited "loyalty" as the reason he passed on free agency and promised the fans a "better hero."
Unfortunately, in mid-April, Dwight was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back that would cause him to miss the remainder of the season. The first major injury of Dwight's playing career would not only end his season, but hit tenure with the Orlando Magic.
Achievements: All-Star (6), First Team All-NBA (5), First Team All-Defense (4), Rebounding Champion (4)
The adipower Howard 2 would be the final shoe Dwight wore as a member of the Magic. Featuring a shattered glass design on the upper and external 3-Stripes that doubled as extra support for the lacing system, the adipower Howard 2 was the first Dwight signature shoe to be equipped with miCoach technology. Five different colorways hit retail, including two special make-ups that Dwight wore in the All-Star Game.
2013 - adipower Howard 3
Obviously Dwight won't be suiting up for any games with the Magic this season, but adidas' standard production schedule resulting in three final Orlando-inspired colorways of the adipower Howard 3.
Picking up where the 2 left off, the adipower Howard 3 is defined by a camouflage pattern symbolic of Dwight's fierce approach to the game. Translucent oversized stripes, a molded collar, TPU heel counter, midfoot Z TORSION and a cavity for miCOACH.