Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard became the first player in NBA history to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards when he was presented with the coveted honor by the NBA Monday afternoon.
Players have won the award two years in a row seven times – Ben Wallace in 2002 and ’03 and again in 2002 and ‘03, Alonzo Mourning in 2000 and ’01, Dikembe Mutombo in 1997 and ’98, Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993 and ’94, Dennis Rodman in 1990 and ’91 and Sidney Moncrief in 1983 and ’84. But Dwight is the first to capture the award three consecutive years. Dwight, Wallace and Mutomb are the only players with at least three Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“It’s a great honor and a blessing. It means so much to me because I pride myself on playing great team defense and being the anchor for my team,’’ Dwight said. “To know that nobody has ever done this three years in a row, I just thank God for allowing me to get through another season without any major injuries.’’
Dwight authored his finest season in the NBA in seven years. The MVP candidate just missed becoming only the 10th player ever to finish in the Top 10 in scoring (11th at 22.9), rebounding (2nd at 14.1), field goal percentage (2nd at 59.3) and blocked shots (4th at 2.38). He won the NBA’s Player of the Week award more times (six) than any other player in the league and set career-highs in steals and points this season.
In addition to becoming the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year trophy three times in a row, Dwight also etched his name in the record books in several other areas. He became the youngest player ever to 7,000 rebounds (25 years, 83 days), the fifth-youngest to 10,000 points (25 years, 95 days) and only the fifth player ever to have 6,000 rebounds and 1,000 blocked shots in his first 500 games in the NBA. And he topped 1,000 boards and 100 blocks for the sixth consecutive season. Since blocks became an official statistic in 1973-74, only Moses Malone (seven seasons) has accomplished that feat more.
Just 25 years old and widely considered the game’s best rebounder, shot-blocker and low post scorer, Howard feels he can put together a run of Defensive Player of the Year awards that will never be touched by another player. He has been remarkably durable during his career despite the nightly beatings he takes on the low post and his all-around game continues to improve on a yearly basis, so Howard is confident that he can do something no other player has done as it relates to winning the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award
“I just think if I continue to stay healthy, continue to work night in and night out and keep my focus on being the best defender for our team, the sky is the limit for me,’’ he said. “I’m going to keep doing my job and hopefully I can keep winning these awards.’’