With the short history he has been here, Dwight Howard couldn’t glean much from what the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss meant to him. After all, Howard’s lone interaction with Buss’ passing from cancer happened this fall on a hospital visit. So all Howard could do was rely on what others said about him.
So as he attended Buss’ memorial service Thursday at the Nokia Theatre, Howard paid less attention to the star power that packed the room and more attention to what they said about him.
“I was thinking the whole service — I want to be how Jerry Buss was,” Howard said. “Everybody had something great to say. He pushed a lot of people. He changed this city. Those are things I want people to say about me when I leave this earth. That was my whole focus was how he left a legacy that will go on forever.”
Buss, 80, bought the Lakers in 1979, when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million. Buss then oversaw 10 of the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships and built a franchise Forbes magazine recently valued at $1 billion.
What legacy does Howard want to leave?
“My legacy? Well… Great man. Changed the world,” Howard said. “Somebody that never let things that people attacked him with change who he was as a person and a player. I believe I can do that. Motivate a city and a team to win. That’s what he did. I’m going to continue look at him and guys who did something special like that. Phil Jackson, all the guys who won. it’s all about winning.”
Howard’s discovering that with the Lakers where anything short of an NBA championship remains unacceptable. Yet, as he demonstrated in the Lakers’ 111-107 victory Friday over the Portland Trail Blazers, Howard can adopt that mindset even with his assorted injuries.
“It starts with me,” Howard said. “I have to really come out every night with the same intensity and the same effort. When I get tired, I can ask coach to take me out. I think it starts with me. I have to do a better job of playing hard. I’m going to try.”
Howard posted 19 points and 16 rebounds despite aggravating the torn labrum in his right shoulder once Victor Claver fouled him late in the second quarter. Howard winced on the ensuing timeout. Howard admitted afterwards that it’s “still in pain right now.” After laboring through a third quarter where he scored zero points, Howard said he forced himself to block out the pain. He made two key late field goals and two blocks in the fourth quarter.
“I’m in a little bit better shape, and I’m able to do more,” Howard said. “I’m just going to continue to do whatever I’ve been doing to get better.”
That includes trying to craft a legacy that will eventually leave everyone singing his praises.
“There’s a lot of negative things that really take place in the world,” Howard said. “I would like to see positive things happen as well. There’s a lot of negativity always going around. I don’t think it’s good. I think as role models we have the opportunities to change the perception, make people have a more positive outlook on life. I just hate negativity, I hate being around it. I hate anybody that’s not positive.
“I feel like everybody should have a positive outlook on life because we’re blessed. We’re blessed to be living.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org