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Dwight Howard was born December 8, 1985 and is an American basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Howard, who usually plays center but can also play power forward, had an outstanding high school career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. He chose to forgo college and entered the 2004 NBA Draft, and was selected first overall by the Magic. A five-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA team selection, three-time All-Defensive member, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard has been ranked consistently as one of the best in the league in rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and free throw attempts, and has set numerous franchise and league records. He has led the Magic to three division titles and one conference title, and he was the winner of the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In the 2008 Olympics, he was the starting center for Team USA, which went on to win the gold medal.
Before he was drafted in 2004, Howard said that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world". In November 2009, he was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work.
Howard is considered the "franchise player" of the Magic. He is the NBA's leading rebounder (also leading the league in 2007–08 and 2008–09); to illustrate, in a game against the Golden State Warriors on January 10, 2007, his 25 rebounds for the Magic outnumbered the total number of boards grabbed by the starting five of the Warriors. Howard's rebounding is in part facilitated by his extraordinary athleticism; his vertical leap is estimated at almost 40 inches, rare for a player of his size (6'11", 265 pounds). He demonstrated this skill memorably in the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest during the NBA All-Star Weekend, during which he completed an alley oop dunk from teammate Jameer Nelson and slapped a sticker onto the backboard which reached 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m). The sticker showed an image of his own smiling face with a handwritten "All things through Christ Phil: 4:13," a paraphrase of Philippians 4:13. As of April 2010, Howard's career average of 12.7 rebounds per game (in the regular season) ranks 13th in NBA history. The center has also remained largely injury-free in his NBA career, playing in 351 consecutive games before missing his first game.
Dwight Howard's abilities and powerful physique have drawn attention from fellow NBA All-Stars. Tim Duncan once remarked in 2007: "[Howard] is so developed... He has so much promise and I am glad that I will be out of the league when he is peaking." Kevin Garnett echoed those sentiments: "[Howard] is a freak of nature, man... I was nowhere near that physically talented. I wasn't that gifted, as far as body and physical presence." Subsequent to a game in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala said: "It's like he can guard two guys at once. He can guard his guy and the guy coming off the pick-and-roll, which is almost impossible to do... If he gets any more athletic or jumps any higher, they're going to have to change the rules." As early as December 2007, ESPN writer David Thorpe declared Howard to be the most dominant center in the NBA.
Before he was drafted in 2004, Howard said that he wanted to use his NBA career and Christian faith to "raise the name of God within the league and throughout the world". He has stated he believes in reaching out to his community and fans and thus contributes substantially in the field of philanthropy. An avid listener of Gospel music, he attends the Fellowship of Faith Church when he is back home in Atlanta and is involved and active with the youth programs at the church. Together with his parents, Howard also established the Dwight D. Howard Foundation Inc. in 2004. The Foundation provides scholarships for students who want to attend his alma mater, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and grants to Lovell Elementary School and Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Florida. The Foundation also organizes summer basketball camps for boys and girls, and together with high school and college coaches and players, fellow NBA players are invited to be on hand at the camp. For his contributions in the Central Florida community, Howard received in 2005 the Rich and Helen De Vos Community Enrichment Award. Within the NBA itself, Howard has participated in several NBA "Read to Achieve" assemblies encouraging children to make reading a priority. In November 2009, the center was named one of the 10 finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which awards athletes for their charitable work. Elsewhere, Howard appeared as a special guest on an episode of the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired 2 April 2006, in which Ty Pennington and his team built a new home and ministry offices for Sadie Holmes, who operates a social services ministry in the Orlando area.
In the offseason, Dwight does some corporate appearances, speaking engagements, basketball camps, autograph signings and visits to local hospitals.