Move over, Wilt Chamberlain. Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard now has a place in the record books following a historic effort Thursday night in Oakland.
Dwight attempted a NBA-record 39 free throws, shattering Chamberlain’s 50-year-old record of 34 attempts in 1962. Dwight made 21 of his free throws on Thursday and registered the first 40/20 of his career with 45 points and 23 rebounds in the Magic’s 117-109 defeat of the Golden State Warriors.
“I had no idea about the record (during the game) because I just wanted to win the game. I was determined to be aggressive and get to the line,” Dwight said. “I didn’t care if I missed 30, but I was going to shoot the next one with confidence. I’m happy we stuck with the game plan and got a good win.”
Dwight’s historic night happened on the same day when he found out he was the leading vote-getter in the NBA for the NBA All-Star Game, which will be played at Orlando’s Amway Center on Feb. 26. Dwight’s 754,737 votes were 64,124 more than Kobe Bryant. He has a commanding 679,699-vote lead over the next closest center in the East (Joakim Noah) and he also racked up 113,000 more votes than Miami’s LeBron James and Chicago’s Derrick Rose.
On Thursday night at Oracle Arena, Dwight attempted eight free throws in the first quarter (with three makes), got to the line 10 times in the second period (with six makes), had another 10 attempts in the third quarter (with four makes) and capped the game with a strong finish by making eight of 11 in the fourth period.
Golden State was without center Kwame Brown and Andris Biedrins fouled out early in the fourth quarter from having to guard Dwight all night. Rookie head coach Mark Jackson employed the “Hack-A-Howard” game plan of fouling Dwight intentionally away from the ball eight different times. But Dwight was able to keep his cool and keep his focus throughout the record-setting night.
“I just wanted to win the game. I actually got into a little rhythm shooting free throws, but staying aggressive offensively and defensively was my main focus,” Dwight said.
That it was Chamberlain’s record that was broken meant something extra special to Dwight. The Magic’s five-time all-star spent some of his summer break watching Wilt’s games on NBA TV and he’s read two books written about arguably the most dominant player in NBA history. Dwight has also talked to those who were close to Chamberlain to get a better understanding of the player who once scored 100 points in a game.
“Nobody is going to ever catch Wilt’s 100-point record, but he’s my favorite player,” Dwight said. “Every night I picture myself playing against those guys. That’s where I want to be mentioned when I’m done playing. Wilt was dominant and a guy who did everything on the court – passed the ball, ran the floor, blocked shots and was a great guy off the floor. He dominated the game and I watched a lot of his games during the summer. It wasn’t about him just scoring. He was a great athlete who played volleyball in the summer and ran track. Those are some of the things that I’ve done in the past and that’s why I admire him so much.”