Dwight Howard Trade Killed Lakers’ Chances of Winning with Kobe Bryant

As big a basketball no-brainer as it seemed for the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard ahead of the 2012-13 season, the trade still required a massive amount of faith.

Specifically, the notion that no one—especially someone of Superman’s stature—would dare refuse to re-up for a fresh tenure the following summer.

“We’re the Lakers,” the thinking seemed to go. “If 16 banners and sun-soaked beaches can’t convince a star to stay, nothing will.”

Twelve months later, Howard—propelled by equal parts drama and economics—headed to the Houston Rockets, leaving the Lakers in a lurch from which they have yet to fully recover.

And so it is that what once would've seemed impossible has become, with the hand of hindsight, only too real: The Dwight Howard trade destroyed the Lakers' chances of winning another title with Kobe Bryant.

Not that there was much margin for error to begin with, of course. Even at 34 years old, the closing of Bryant's superstar window was already well underway. The Lakers didn’t need high-upside prospects; they needed proven ones, and in Howard and Steve Nash—acquired in an earlier, equally asset-draining trade—they were getting nothing if not two, title-ready talents.

But the pieces never quite clicked, and by the end of the spring of 2013 it had become screamingly obvious that the trio might never strike the desired hardwood harmony. Further complicating matters was the health of Bryant himself, cast into dire doubt following a late-season Achilles injury.

On July 13, 2013, L.A.’s dream of a banner Big Three officially died when Howard signed a four-year, $88 million deal to join James Harden in Houston.

On the surface at least, Bryant was a paragon of unflappability.

“Honestly, man, I don’t really...

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