The two have insisted they have patched things even if Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard experienced plenty of tension during their lone season together with the Lakers three years ago. But that detente did not prevent Bryant from throwing some shade, challenging rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. to show off his freakish athleticism by dunking on Howard.
“I saw it and just laughed at it,” Howard said following the Houston Rockets shootaround on Wednesday at the Clippers’ practice facility in Playa del Rey.
Moments later, Howard turned serious on if he would allow Nance Jr. to posterize him when the Lakers (4-21) host the Rockets (12-14) on Thursday at Staples Center.
“No,” Howard said. “It’s either going to be a hard foul or a block.”
Nance Jr. threw down a one-handed slam on Tuesday over Milwaukee center John Henson. Nance Jr. leaped over Golden State’s Festus Ezeli during a preseason game. And Nance Jr. is the son of Larry Nance Sr., who played 13 NBA seasons and was the first winner of the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest.
But Nance Jr. reported that Bryant told him after his latest dunk that he won’t be impressed until he posterizes Howard. On Nov. 12, 2004, Bryant threw down a one-handed slam on Howard in only his sixth NBA game in an Orlando Magic uniform. Bryant has since joked that he “baptized Dwight.”
“After Kobe did that as a rookie, he never tried it again,” Howard said. “That’s something that will go down as one of his best dunks ever. That was pretty nasty. I wish I would’ve jumped. But had I known then what I know now, I would’ve just fouled him and sent him to the free throw line instead of being on a poster or birthday cakes.”
Howard then shared that plenty of friends and family members would get him a birthday cake nearly every year that showed Bryant’s highlight reel at his expense.
“But that was the last time he ever tried. After that, I was able to get a whole bunch of blocks,” said Howard, who is in his 11th NBA season with 1,746 career blocks. “He inspired me.”
So much that Howard vowed Nance Jr. won’t duplicate what Bryant once did to him over a decade ago.