ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwight Howard
won his second straight NBA defensive player of the year award on Tuesday
after becoming the only player to lead the league in blocks and rebounds
in the same season twice — let alone in consecutive years.
The Orlando Magic's All-Star
center received 576 total points, including 110 first-place votes from a
panel of 122 writers and broadcasters. Atlanta's Josh Smith was second
with 136 points, and Charlotte's Gerald Wallace finished third with 113
Howard averaged 13.2 rebounds and
2.8 blocks per game this season, powering the Magic to the league's
second-best record behind Cleveland. Only Bill Walton, Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace each led the NBA in those
categories once in the same season. Blocks were not kept as an official
statistic until 1973.
"I think it's a well deserved
honor," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's the most impactful
Howard already was the youngest
player to win the award last season. Now 24, players and coaches believe
he could take the honors for years to come.
The man they call Superman
swooped in to affect more shots than he blocked this season, changing
games with his presence in the paint. Howard has been a matchup
nightmare against almost every team, the main reason the Magic kept
opposing shooters to an NBA-low 43.8 percent shooting.
The No. 1 overall draft pick out
of high school in 2004, Howard has quickly become one of the most
dominant centers. His chiseled, 6-foot-11, 275-pound physique makes him
one of the most intimidating players, and his incredible vertical leap
is even rarer for a big man.
Certainly not a player easy to
"I was always trying to dunk on
Dwight," teammate Vince Carter said of his time before he came to the
Magic this season. "If you ask him, he'll say, no, but it happened a few
times. But whatever, we won't talk about that.
"You always have to know he's
going to be there. He has great instinct. It's always on your mind. You
know if you beat your man, you still have to get around Dwight."
Howard led the Magic to the NBA
finals last year, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The
Magic also have won three straight Southeast Division titles, and they
had 59 wins in the regular season for the second straight year.
Orlando leads Charlotte 1-0 in
the first round of the playoffs. Howard blocked nine shots in the
opener, enough for Bobcats coach Larry Brown to call him the "most
valuable player" of the game despite scoring just five points.
Game 2 is Wednesday night.
Howard is the seventh player to
win the award in back-to-back seasons, joining Wallace, Olajuwon,
Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman and Sidney Moncrief.
Wallace and Mutombo each won the award a league-record four times.