Dwight Howard’s Hollywood Path is Truly Just Wright
With the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard currently dominating the 2010 NBA Playoffs, it’s time to take a look at the moves Dwight is making off the court. Continuing in his epic quest to piss off and destroy any memory of Shaq in Orlando, Dwight is now seeking silver screen stardom and driving the lane to position himself as the next breakout athlete box office celebrity.
He has big aspirations for his Hollywood career too. He was recently quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying, “I want to be like Denzel, mixed with Will Smith,” he said. “And Laurence Fishburne.” These are tall words coming from the big man who is making his nationwide acting debut this Friday, playing the deep and challenging role… of himself. For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, it goes by the name of Just Wright. It is basically a romantic comedy teaming rapper turned actress Queen Latifah with rapper turned actor Common in which as a subplot they try to make us believe that the New Jersey Nets are a talented team. Dwight plays himself as a friendly rival with Rashard Lewis also making an appearance. Both have speaking roles and both play themselves. Not exactly Gheorge Muresan’s larger-than-life performance in My Giant, but certainly a step above Dikembe Mutombo’s character, Arch Player Coyner, in Juwanna Man.
Dwight has already been pulling major nationwide endorsements (McDonalds, T-Mobile) and is now being featured with the biggest icons in sport in the newest Gatorade commercial. That’s right; D12 is the new poster boy of Michael Jordan’s famous Gatorade pitches… Not Queen James. For Dwight, further building his brand via Hollywood is a low risk, high reward choice.
Basketball players making appearances in a movie as themselves is nothing new. There have been plenty of NBA stars that have made debuts in “basketball” movies such as Like Mike, which gives acting credit to former Magic great Me-Mac as well as ~15 other NBA players. Eddie, the brilliant 1996 flick starring Whoopi Goldberg, took one NBA player to a whole new level. The inspirational role of Ivan Radovadovitch, played by former NBA twinkling star Dwayne Schintzius, delivered a line that would later motivate a young Marcin Gortat to devote his life to basketball, “IVAN MAKE BASKET!” Space Jam, (arguably the greatest sports movie soundtrack ever), combined an NBA superstar in Michael Jordan, a cartoon superstar in Bugs Bunny as well as the standard smorgasbord of NBA talent to create a best of both worlds ambience which helped to further extend the Jordan brand to children and casual fans around the country.
However, in order for Dwight to truly take his Hollywood career to the levels that he aspires to, he needs to branch out. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s appearance in Airplane is still remembered 30 years later. Follow Twitter during a Celtics game and watch how many times Ray Allen is referred to as Jesus Shuttlesworth, for his starring role in He Got Game. The ultimate challenge for Dwight right now though is to challenge and eventually take over Shaq’s title as the King of NBA Hollywood. While we can all probably agree that Blue Chips, starring Penny Hardaway and Shaq, was a good to great movie… Shaq wasn’t the star. However, Shaq DID have two movies in which he was the headlining star. Two absolutely awful and atrocious movies. Kazaam and Steel. As bad as those movies were, they did NOTHING to hurt the overall Shaq brand (Reebok did that).
This is the important lesson here for Dwight. No matter what he ever does in Hollywood, he will still be considered a basketball player first. Hollywood gives these types of athlete-actors a pass because they don’t expect any groundbreaking performances, they just want to tag their name onto the movie and milk whatever they can from the joint-branding. It’s low risk, high reward. While I certainly don’t recommend him starring in the next Air Bud franchise, I think it is without a doubt the right choice for him to be exploring other entertainment opportunities outside of basketball. Just Wright is clearly nothing more than an icebreaker and stepping stone for Dwight, but a necessary first step. Superman’s million dollar smile has crossover superstar written all over it and on top of that, he is only two box office flops away from officially stealing another piece of Shaq’s egotistical soul.
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