The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Competition broke no shortage of ground with its 2020 edition. It may have ended in controversy with Aaron Gordon's final dunk earning a surprising score but before that moment it may have arguably been the best in the history of the contest.
omg dwight howard with the superman cape, my childhood pic.twitter.com/NksiDg8QYq— Chris Montano (@gswchris) February 16, 2020
A moment that stood out came during the second round of dunks with past winner Dwight Howard pulling out his iconic Superman dunk for one more take off. But he made one heartwarming change this time around, removing the Superman S from his shirt to reveal a similar shield with the number 24 in the middle.
24 is obviously Kobe Bryant's number and the two were former teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers during the downturn of Howard's career. With 2019-2020 turning out to be a season of rebirth for Howard, he was set to have Bryant aid him with the dunk contest this year in Chicago. Bryant's untimely death prevented that so Howard chose the next best option.
While the dunk itself left some fans cold and Howard was eliminated shortly after, it still stands as a small touching tribute to the fallen NBA icon.
Howard and Bryant had a tense relationship during Howard's first tenure with the Lakers before the late star's retirement. But it seems the pair had mended their differences and the shocking death of Bryant has affected Howard in unexpected ways. Howard revealed that he wept in a bathroom shortly after hearing the tragic news and had cried himself to sleep many times since.
"It doesn't matter what you have, it doesn't matter who you are, we are all we got. And love each other while we're here on Earth, treat each other the right way, respect each other and never have any hatred or animosity towards anybody because you never know what could happen to him," Howard told the LA Times shortly after Bryant's death.
"For me, it's super sad because I really wanted to tell him how much I appreciate everything he's done, all the things he's said. Even at the time that we were on the same team, we didn't understand each other," Howard told the outlet. "But I saw a different Kobe, and I even saw a change in myself. And I'm pretty sure he saw it. I just wanted to be able to tell him how I felt about him, and I never got the chance to. That was really the most heartbreaking part. Every day it's been on my mind. It's something that I've just got to deal with, just show the fans in this city that I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Bryant's memorial will be held on Feb. 24 at Staples Center. Howard and the Lakers are currently top seed in the Western Conference.