Dwight Howard entered into the NBA over a decade ago with a mission to preach God's word. Now, the Houston Rockets center is revealing what a struggle it has been to reflect God in the league.
"My mission was to preach God's word, you know, in the NBA, use the NBA as a platform for God and when I'm on the floor let people see the God in me," Howard told CBN.
However, Howard, 30, soon realized how tough it was to focus on God when he had overwhelming access to things he never did outside of the league.
"There's times where it was very overwhelming. Where it's like man, this is so much," he admitted. "Everything is at my disposal, you know, all I got to do is just go reach and it's mine."
As a result, Howard made some mistakes. After fathering four children by multiple women, Howard admits that he is far from perfect. Still, he acknowledges that Jesus died for his sins.
While Howard said he will always be a man of faith, the NBA center, who made his mark as a member of the Orlando Magic before moving to the Los Angeles Lakers and finally Houston Rockets, said people have tried to use that faith to criticize him.
"You know, the minute I messed up, the minute I sinned, everybody took a shot at me. 'Hey, you're supposed to be a Christian,' but God died on – Jesus died on a cross for our sins, you know," he said. "So if he's willing to forgive us, why can't we forgive each other?"
The public also had a hard time forgiving Howard for the way he left the Orlando Magic in 2012, amid reports that he wanted his coach fired, asked to be traded and criticized his teammates. Last year, Howard admitted that he could have handled things better.
"At the time, I was super upset about the team and I wanted to get players that I felt could help us win. And me coming out and saying, 'We need better players and we can't win with what we have,' I kind of made a lot of the guys who were on the team upset," Howard admitted in a Bleacher Report article. "When I look back on it, I could've handled that a lot better, instead of throwing them under the bus. How could I have gotten those guys better to where we would've had a chance to win?"
Still, Howard admits that the criticism was hard on him.
"When I was in Orlando and a lot of this stuff went down in Orlando, everybody made me look like the worst guy in the world," he told CBN. "A coach killer, a guy who hates his teammates, a cancer, all this stuff that I'm not."
Before officially leaving the Magic, Howard had to undergo back surgery. When he returned to the league as a Los Angeles Laker, the center had to endure criticism for not playing up to his potential. After one season with the team, Howard decided to leave the Lakers and drew criticism from fans.
The athlete said when he felt everybody hated him, he turned to God.
"[I was] like 'oh my God..please, just do something.' And He said, 'listen, if the whole world hates you, I love you. Always remember that,'" Howard recalled. "So I just tried to put away all the hate and everything like that and just focus on my relationship with Him."
These days, Howard is careful not to let anyone take his joy and spoke about finding his foundation in Christ.
"When things are going wrong, when, I'm at a bad place, when I sin, I feel like He's there. He's my foundation," he said. "Like He hurts when I sin. But instead of Him turning His back on me, He's like, 'hey, come back. I still love you. I'm not going to leave."