Though Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is often linked to Superman--and with good reason, given his performance in the 2008 Sprite Slam Dunk contest--ESPN.com likened him to a different superhero in its team-up with Marvel Comics to create stylized comic-book covers representing every NBA team. With an assist from the husband-and-wife creative team of Terry and Rachel Dodson, Howard appears as Wolverine, the ubiquitous X-Man, in the NBA preview issue of ESPN The Magazine, on newsstands now. The image itself is a nod to Frank Miller's iconic portrayal of the Canadian mutant in a limited series published in 1982, three years before Howard was born.
The reasoning behind the selection? According to the Mag, Orlando's poor record in games decided by five points or less (.471 win percentage) last season means they need an injection of intensity. If Howard had Wolverine's attitude, it'd "take care of the intensity issues" the team has.
On a more practical level, Superman belongs to DC Comics, not Marvel, which also helps to explain the choice.
Notably, Howard has adjusted his attitude following last season's disappointing Eastern Conference Finals ouster at the hands of the Boston Celtics, as Ken Berger wrote last month:
"I really learned how to talk to my teammates, be a better leader, be more vocal," Howard said. "But also in the locker room, show my teammates a different side of me. The side that most people always see is me smiling and having fun, which is great. But I showed my teammates that when it's time to get serious, then it's time to get serious. And I'm going to expect them to do the same."
Next week's release of Howard's children's-music CD proves he's still a fun-loving guy off the court. But when he steps between the lines, he's all business. That attitude may help him dismantle the rest of the league with the same ruthless efficiency with which Wolverine dispatches mutant-hunting Sentinels. He just has to be careful not to enter a berserker rage; the league's new technical-foul rules could lead to fines or a suspension if he's too demonstrative.