After Game 1 of their 1st Round Playoff series against the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers are already searching for answers. The issue here is that Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are not a math equation… there's no formula the Lakers can actually rely on to find the answers they need. Instead, the Nuggets are like a complicated prompt in a graduate level literature course, where even the most well-researched and astutely conceived response may not end up getting you the grade you felt you deserved. Game 1 felt like that.

The Lakers outscored the Nuggets at the free throw line and shot a better percentage from the field. Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis scored plenty and they did so efficiently, and the Lakers managed to keep Jamal Murray in check (9-for-24 shooting for 22 points). And yet, LA was bludgeoned on the glass in Game 1, giving up 15 offensive rebounds to a Nuggets team that you absolutely cannot afford to give second-chance opportunities to. Soon-to-be three-time league MVP Nikola Jokic scored 32 points on 15-for-23 shooting, and he still dished out 7 assists, proving once again that no matter what you do against him, you're likely going to be left searching for answers.

But wait! What's that up in the sky? Is it an answer?

It's a Bird!

It's a Plane!

It's Dwight Howard photoshopping himself in a Lakers uniform and a Superman cape!


Dwight Howard has been involved in a postseason matchup with Jokic before, starting sparingly during the Lakers' 2020 championship run in the Bubble. In that Western Conference Finals series, Jokic — not quite yet the MVP caliber player he'd soon become — was held to just 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, in part because of how hard Dwight Howard worked to get under the big Serbian's skin.

“I just wanted to get in his head,” Howard said of the matchup with Jokic back in 2020, per Etan Thomas of BasketballNews. “I knew he was a key for them to win the championship and he got them there. So, my thing was to be physical with him. Get in his head and push him around a little bit. Then actually after Game 2, we were [watching] film and Coach said, ‘Alright, you did a lot, you’re already in his head. Now, you don't have to say anything to him.’ So, after that the second game, I didn't even talk no more, I just was quiet, and he was already done for. Every time I stood up on the bench, he was looking over there; every time he got ready to go into the game, I would run to the scorer’s table just to tell him, ‘Hey, every time you get in, I'm right here with you.’”

It's not a surprise that even to this day, Dwight Howard still has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself and what he brings to the table, even as a 38-year-old in a hypothetical matchup with the best player in the NBA. Dwight's been vocal about his place in NBA history compared to Jokic, saying back in July 2023 that, “People look at that and say, ‘Well, Jokic, he scores and does all this stuff.' And no offense, I think he's great. I love Jokic. I don't want people to think that I'm trying to hate even comparing, but I'm going to take myself. I know how dominant I was and I know what I could do with my skills,” (h/t Zion Olojede of Complex).

Prime Dwight Howard does deserve significantly more respect than he's been given. Dwight was criminally left off of the NBA's 75th Anniversary team despite the fact that he was somewhere between the 2nd and 4th-best player in the league for a five-to-six year stretch, winning Defensive Player of the Year three years in a row and making eight All-NBA teams during his career.

But even for prime Dwight Howard, prime Nikola Jokic might've been his kryptonite.