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Dwight Howard Talks About Losing His Faith And Trying To Regain It

Dwight Howard grew up the opposite of a screw up! According to a new Sports Illustrated cover story his childhood and teen years were focused on two things — basketball and God:

He slept under a wooden cross and a framed copy of the Ten Commandments. He prayed twice a day, once before school and once before bed. He went to Bible study on Tuesday, teen ministry on Friday and church on Sunday, at Fellowship of Faith in East Point, where he started a youth program called Top Flight Security so he and his friends could usher congregants to their pews. His parents sent him to Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, a private school with 16 students in his grade, all the boys outfitted in matching maroon ties and sweater vests. When he sought post defenders his own size, he joined a firemen’s league at Atlanta Christian College, and he told everybody that he’d someday persuade the NBA to superimpose a cross over its silhouetted logo.

The article reveals how when Howard was drafted No. 1 by the Orlando Magic in 2004, he was an 18-year-old virgin who spoke openly to teammates about the time God spoke to him in the bathroom.

He ended up isolating himself, but he was only able to stay strong but for so long.

“I’d been so sheltered for so long, once I got out of my house, I was ready to try anything,” Howard recalls. “It’s like, ‘I’ve heard so much about these clubs, these strip clubs, let’s try ’em out. Let’s party like these older guys.’ ” The booze didn’t do it for him, but the attention did. “You’re young, you’re on TV, and all these beautiful women are coming up to you. There’s no comparison, but at the time, I felt like a kid who has never had candy in his whole life and suddenly is given all the candy he could ever want. If you’re still just a kid—which is what I was—you’re like, ‘Give me more.’ It became an issue.”

His first child, Braylon Howard, was born in 2007. “I was ashamed because I’d talked so much about being a Christian, professed my faith to the whole world, and here I was with a baby out of wedlock,” Howard says. “My parents judged me. A lot of people judged me. I felt like I shouldn’t even be out in public because everyone looked at me as a hypocrite.” The church, forever his haven, brought more anxiety than solace. He would take girlfriends to Sunday services and listen for whispers. Why is he here? Why is he bringing her here? The boy who started Top Flight was gone, left to adopt a far different identity. “I felt like I didn’t need my relationship with God anymore,” Howard says, “and that caused a lot of pain.”

The cover story details Howard’s moves over his last 14 seasons in the league, paying special attention to his problems getting along with teammates in L.A. and Houston.

But we were most interested in the details about his kids. Howard reveals his son Braylon wants a of Steph Curry’s Under Armour shoes (“He won’t wear the D Howards”); while daughter Jayde begs to play with his pet boa constrictors and Dwight III loves watching LEGO Batman. All five kids live with their mothers—two in Florida, two in L.A., one in Houston. They FaceTime and text and visit Atlanta every off-season.

When they tell him they love him, he turns away, so they can’t see him tear up. “It’s a tough situation, obviously,” Howard says. “I should have been more responsible. I messed up. I sinned. But I won’t look at any of them as a mistake. They’re all a blessing to me.”

Howard reveals he took his whole crew to Aspen this summer to stay in a rented home, while they spent their time hiking, fly fishing and whitewater rafting and even went to the rodeo.

In the article, Howard also reveals he didn’t speak to his parents for two years. After close associates finessed him out of loads of cash he did an extensive cleanse of his circle.

“I saw him cleanse everything,” his current pastor Calvin Simmons says, “and cut away the clutter around him, from a business manager to a security guard to all these financial people.” The sweep included his parents, whom he didn’t call for nearly two years. “That was hard,” Howard sighs. “It’s really hard to tell your parents, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I have to back away from you.’ They didn’t understand. They were very upset. But I wanted a genuine relationship with them that didn’t have anything to do with money or judgment.”

Fortunately his parents are back in his life and his mother even came along to help him with the kids for his trip to Colorado:

“I told my parents before last season, ‘Whatever happened in my past, we need each other,’ ” Howard says. “ ‘We have to stick together, and you have to allow me to be who I am.’ ” He is still single—“I think he’s just now stabilized himself to the point where he can properly assess relationships,” Simmons says—married to God and basketball. He often speaks as if he is on a pulpit, lottery picks scattered in the pews: “Find love, but fall in love with yourself first. Don’t get guarded, but protect your heart, because it’s the most valuable thing. And if Grandma tells you she wants another house because she cooked you all that food, think twice before getting her the house.”

With his move to Charlotte this season, Howard is hopeful he'll turn a corner, but according to the article, he's already on the road to getting his personal life in the right place.

Besides the stuff about the kids, one of our favorite details was learning how Howard used to fill notebook paper with names—from Bryant to Harden, Skip Bayless to Stephen A. Smith—and used the pages to wallpaper a room in his house, so he’d remember to pray for adversaries and allies alike.

We knew Dwight was a Christian, but did you have any idea he was a virgin at the start of his career? Pretty mindblowing stuff. Also, we thought he had more than five kids, but yeah… Five is still plenty!

Anyway, read the full article HERE


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