Dwight Howard knows the public's perception of him. If he didn't before, the Houston Rockets center surely does now after TNT's Charles Barkley flat-out asked him on national TV, "Why don't people like you?"
Filling in for Shaquille O'Neal as an analyst on "Inside the NBA" on Tuesday night, Howard didn't flinch when asked the question.
"I think I was very likable in Orlando, [but] the way that situation ended, I think people felt as though I'm just this bad guy. I'm all about myself. I'm a diva; I'm stuck on being Dwight Howard, this famous basketball player," Howard said. "So a lot of people said, 'You know what, we don't like this guy.'
"And, you know, it really hurts me because my heart and my attitude toward the game has always been the same. And my drive has always been there."
He added: "I've never been a bad person. It's not like I want people to like me 'cause I know people aren't always gonna like me. But you get to know me, I'm laid back. I like to have fun."
Howard spent the first eight years of his NBA career in Orlando, leading the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. But his time there didn't end well: After more than one trade demand, Howard was shipped to the Lakers in the summer of 2012.
That didn't go so well either, with Howard never establishing much chemistry with Kobe Bryant and bolting for Houston as a free agent after just one season in Los Angeles.
After three years in Houston, Howard appears to have trouble co-existing with James Harden on the floor and he tends to mentally check out of games. Barkley asked Howard about the perception that he's disinterested during his time on the court.
"I'm always interested in winning," said Howard, who can opt out of his contract with the Rockets this summer. "But as a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what's going on. If I could bring the ball up the court, shoot threes and go between legs and do all that stuff, that'd be great. But I have to rely on my teammates ... to get the ball."
Howard acknowledged that there's been some situations that he hasn't handled so well, but he also said he feels like he's been backed into a corner when it comes to public perception.