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Dwight Howard’s popularity decline as measured in All-Star fan votes

Jan 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

When the surprise announcement came that Kevin Love and Blake Griffin had leapfrogged Dwight Howard to become All-Star Game starters this season — leaving the Rockets’ big man for the coaches to pick as a reserve — my first thought was “that’s a huge Lakers fans base that he pissed off.” They took their vote elsewhere (to Love, who Lakers fans think will be in their colors in a couple of years).

However, Howard’s issue bigger than just the Lakers — how he handled his exit from Orlando (trying to force a trade, then pulling back on that and waiving his opt-out, then forcing a trade again) followed by the injury-riddled disaster in Los Angeles last season has hurt Howard’s popularity everywhere. Howard’s demeanor of wanting to have fun can be spun as a guy not serious about winning or his craft (which isn’t really true), and that doesn’t sit well with fans.

You can see it in the number of All-Star votes Howard has gotten over the years, which were compiled by Jeff Caplan of NBA.com and he added some other notes.

Orlando, 2009: 3,150,181 (top overall vote-getter)
Orlando, 2010: 2,360,096 (third)
Orlando, 2011: 2,099,204 (second)
Orlando, 2012: 1,600,390 (first)
L.A. Lakers, 2013: 922,070 (eighth)
Houston, 2014: 653,318 (12th)

Howard’s 653,318 votes this year account for 10.2 percent of the total Western Conference “frontcourt” votes (the top 15 vote-getters the NBA releases). Last year his votes accounted for 15.6 percent of the total West “frontcourt votes. In 2009, when he was the overall leading vote-getter, he accounted for 19.6 percent of the Eastern Conference “frontcourt” vote (under the old format I used the top five vote-getters at “center” and the top 10 at “forward”).

There are other factors in play here, for sure. The biggie is the NBA removed the “center” designation on the ballot last season so fans didn’t have to vote for a center, they could vote for an undersized front line where LeBron James has to play center if they want (which the fans did this season, pairing LeBron, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George up front for the East).

Also, there are young stars on the rise in Western frontcourts — Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and others. They siphon votes away from Howard.

But obviously Howard’s popularity has taken a serious hit as well.

As I’ve said before, Howard can repair that image by winning — Kobe Bryant and LeBron also took serious PR hits in the past but in this country winning trumps that. Those two have largely re-written their image. It is the only model for Howard — and the Rockets are a good team, albeit one still trying to really find its identity. They are inconsistent right now, but should grow out of it (and there will be roster tweaks coming).

This is also why you suddenly see Howard back in the pool to play for Team USA, maybe at the World Championships this summer, maybe at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Howard has a gold medal from Beijing, but his image could use another one.

With some wins you’ll see Howard’s image change again, slowly. With that you could see changes in the All-Star voting. But the fan vote is a popularity contest and right now Howard is losing.

  1. 00maltliquor - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Not necessarily true. They just took off the C position. When there was a C spot he was light years ahead of the other C’s to vote for. Especially when he was in the East. So everyone that was to cast a vote basically had no one else to choose from. Especially since center has only one spot vs 2 spots for guards and forwards, which would be the reason for his high volume of votes. Plus he’s in the West. Tough spot to be the man out there.

    • moseskkim - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      yeah he mentioned that that was the big one.. however i think the point is that throughout the years.. and even before the C spot was taken out this year.. that his popularity in votes has gone down. that is pretty much undeniable

      • fanofthegame79 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        Yes, his votes have gone down, but as recently as 2012, he was the overall vote-getter (at least that’s how I’m reading those stats). I think his popularity has taken a major hit, but I also think that if we had the true Center position to vote for, he would still be one of the highest vote-getters. And this is coming from someone who is not a huge Howard fan. I think he’s over-rated and his skill set has not improved since joining the league.

    • chicagosports2014 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      Don’t forget to mention your also a coach killa.

    • spthegr8 - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      That pic of Dwight made LOL!!!! That pic is Sketchy!!

  2. azarkhan - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    So Howard should care what the “fans” think, the same bozos who voted Kobe to the All-Star game even though he has only played in 6 games? Yeah, I bet Howard feels just terrible.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      His GM seems to care

  3. losanginsight - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    Looking at the declining numbers each year tells the story. She peaked in 2009. Howard wanted out of Orlando to be in a bigger market and couldn’t cut it in LA. The 10000x focus was on the microscope and he shrugged and pouted after every game. Winning may fix everything but it’s not going to happen in a small market team like Houston. Howard gambled and he failed. That team looks like a 5 seed at best for the next few years. Let’s see how long it’s take her to demand another trade. The fans are watching.

    • theripster30 - Jan 24, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Ok, I’m not a Dwight Howard fan or anything, but I have to point out your ignorance and/or stupidity. The fact you call Houston a small market is ridiculous, considering it is the fourth largest city in America. Secondly, saying the Rockets are a five seed at best over the next MULTIPLE seasons is equally ridiculous. This year? Probably. One off-season in professional sports can alter a team (or player) drastically, much less multiple off-seasons. I’m not sure what’s worse.. the fact you know nothing about the geography of the country you (most likely) live in, or the fact you don’t understand how a team can gel at the blink of an eye once the missing piece of the puzzle gets put into place. Being a bandwagon fan proves that ignorance is bliss.

      • losanginsight - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:00 PM

        Small market as in TV market. Compared to LA and NY, Houston is a small market team. I bet you don’t know this but some of the games are even shown on a delay to small market Houston fans. I don’t see Houston being a higher seed than OKC, Golden state, Portland, or San Antonio any time soon barring any major injuries. Even the clippers and, in the next 36 months, the Lakers and Dallas will be better teams than the rockets. She12 has just an once morre passion to play this game than Andrew bynum. Maybe you should close your eyes and hold your breath until Houston”gels”. The missing piece was supposed to be she12 but he is only a pawn.

      • mackcarrington - Jan 25, 2014 at 12:23 AM

        It is a fact that Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S.
        What does it say about Houston that Minnesota can stuff more ballots in their box than Houston?
        This don’t have a thing to do with LA. Rocket fans have only themselves to look at for this. The Rockets are a good team and Minnesota may not even make the playoffs.
        All the Rocket fans have to do is vote their guy in.

    • rabbi187 - Jan 25, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      If your comparing every market to LA and NY, then they’re all small markets then clown. And right now, the Rockets are a higher seed than GS and are only 4.5 games out of first and that’s with all their injuries. Never go full retard with comments idiot.

  4. aboogy123456 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    If he was a laker he’d be starting. Just sayin.

  5. dollasnsense - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    I’m not really buying the idea (In Dwight’s case) that winning will cure his popularity woes. Yeah, Kobe and Lebron had incidents that caused them to take huge hits to their respective fanbases but their incidents were isolated ones that were more exception than the rule for their careers.

    Howard’s situation is quite different. With the things you mentioned happening in Orlando and LA, it has become more the rule for Dwight rather than the exception. His pattern of “prima donna-ism” won’t be forgotten by Magic and Lakers fans as well as any other fans who were turned off by his antics, even if he wins a ‘ship. He might be playing on his most successful team as far as regular season winning % goes this year (sorry, don’t have time to check those Magic W-L records from the late ’00’s to ’11-12, I’m at work) and has stayed out of the media spotlight, yet his votes are at the lowest point in his career. I just don’t see fans forgiving him for his antics the way they did for Kobe and Lebron after they won rings. I honestly would expect people to loathe him more if Dwight is able to win a ring in the future.

    But, obviously, time will tell…

    • fanofthegame79 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      Again, great points – but we also have to look at the other vote-getters this year. LeBron is the overall vote-getter and he has less than 2 million votes (last time I heard). So all vote-getters are tallying far less votes than in past years.

      • fanofthegame79 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Here are the stats for the top two vote-getters for this year:

        Fan votes determine the All-Star Game starters LeBron was the top vote getter with 1,416,419 votes, followed closely by Durant with 1,396,294 votes.

        So this goes to show that the stats we’re seeing about Howard’s demise might not be all valid. All-Star voting is down across the board.

  6. smcgaels1997 - Jan 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    No to mention DeMarcus Cousins

  7. timb12 - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    His numbers didn’t go down because people started recognizing his game for what it is? He’s not a great post player, he’s athletic. I think it’s more of a sign that people see that his potential has kind of diminished. He used to be young and fun to watch, but knowing that this is pretty much it, then he’s not that entertaining. I hope that makes sense.

    • topdawg4ever - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      Yes- Before he had potential and people gave him a pass. Now we see he has not risen to the level of a superstar- which most believe he could have done if he worked hard on his game. THAT is why he will never get a ring.

  8. davidly - Jan 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    This isn’t as much about his being unpopular as it is how he is no longer the most popular player in the league anymore. Whining fans notwithstanding, the guy is still popular when you consider his being 12th overall, still, after having his position elbowed out of the picture. Who’s the top vote-getter amongst centers in the West? I’d say he’s doing alright.

  9. antistratfordian - Jan 24, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    “Kobe Bryant and LeBron also took serious PR hits in the past but in this country winning trumps that. Those two have largely re-written their image.”

    That is not exactly true. Whereas after “The Decision” in 2010-11 LeBron entered “The 10 Most Disliked Athletes In America” list (published by Forbes and based on Q Score*) – James has since left the list. Kobe has been on that list continually for about a decade. He always scores poorly with the public regardless of winning (I’m talking about the public as a whole, not just basketball fans). Kobe was still on The 10 Most Disliked Athletes In America list last year.

    In fact, right after LeBron’s “Decision” debacle Kobe STILL scored lower than LeBron in Q Score and was still on the Top 10 Most Disliked Athletes list. Kobe just had come off two rings, an MVP and two Finals MVPs! The public was unmoved. So winning doesn’t help everybody.

    *The Q Score is a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company, celebrity, or television show used in the United States. The higher the Q Score, the more highly regarded the item or person is among the group that is familiar with them. Q Scores and other variants are primarily used by the media, marketing, advertising, and public relations industries.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 24, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      and yet he was still voted an All-Star starter despite playing 6 games

      • Professor Fate - Jan 24, 2014 at 5:28 PM

        The anti’s reason to exist is to relentlessly point out that some people don’t like Bryant. After all, he’s the Kobe-hating society’s president-for-life, it’s one of his sworn duties. When Bryant retires anti will have to see the doc for a little-blue-pill prescription. Nothing gets him hard like Bryant.

      • spthegr8 - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        @professor
        ROTFLMFAO!!!! Almost fell outta my chair @ work. Comment of the month right there. Now THAT was funny!!!

      • topdawg4ever - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        He was voted an All- Star by all his wacko Lakers fans.

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:13 PM

        yeah, I’m sure it’s ONLY Lakers fans voting for him, just like it is ONLY Thunder fans voting for Kevin Durant and it’s ONLY Clippers fans voting for Chris Paul

      • antistratfordian - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        That’s only basketball fans voting – a very small percentage of the population. Kobe received how many votes this year? 988,884.

        There are 313 million other Americans you’re not considering, and most of them have a negative opinion of Kobe.

        Plus, you can still dislike a player and vote for him to be an All-Star. I’ve voted for Kobe. I’m sure LeBron got votes from people who don’t even like him but can’t deny his talents.

    • kb2408 - Jan 24, 2014 at 6:49 PM

      Anti is the D12 of PBT….

      • antistratfordian - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:54 PM

        Haha… I always get Lakers fans all bent out of shape. I think Kobe fans have the thinnest skin of all fan bases in sports.

      • jimeejohnson - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:17 PM

        Knicks fans.

  10. buddydeath - Jan 24, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    The only people in or around Houston with Comcast can watch Rockets games. Their TV deal is killing their popularity for the past 2 years. Only h

  11. jimeejohnson - Jan 24, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    Dwight Howard won’t be winning any popularity contests. Leave that to pretty boys in/from L.A.

  12. louhudson23 - Jan 25, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    A limited skills player who has refused to improve and expand his game and can no longer rely on his “potential” to cover up that fact ,combined with his childish preoccupation with who he plays for rather than how he plays for them….

  13. tricitysteel - Jan 25, 2014 at 5:14 AM

    Dwight Howard won’t get anymore votes in future years at the all star game because, whether he works hard or not, his game hasn’t really developed or evolved and I don’t see it doing so. He’s athletic, strong, but his game lacks any finesse.

  14. urodaddy07 - Jan 25, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    @anti: the stat you quoted about most of America hating Kobe is incorrect. The top ten most hated athletes data was obtained by polling a group of people and asking them who was the athlete that was least likeable. So, of the people polled more thought he was less likeable than other athletes on the list. This could have been 20% vs let’s say 18% for Lebron for instance. So even if you extrapolate this to the whole population, which I don’t think you can, it means that 80% liked him. You get me? Be careful how you read stats dude

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