When Dwight Howard was a kid, he used to watch old basketball training tapes of Magic Johnson, then run outside and practice those techniques so feverishly, it's like he knew when he started ballin' at age 3 that he was working out for his future in the NBA.
But when Howard had the chance to meet the real Magic at age 15, it took only seven words to make Howard take his workouts even more seriously.
Those words? You'll never make it in the NBA.
That right, when Howard met the man who used to inspire him to play basketball as a kid, Magic Johnson actually told the teenage center that he didn't have what it took to take his game to the ultimate level.
"He said I was too skinny," Howard told me while we kicked back at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles. Howard was there to introduce the new "adidas miCoach" fitness game, a product where gamers will learn training techniques from pros like Howard and Josh Smith in order to help them increase their vertical leap, strengthen their core and build muscles using Howard's own tried-and-tested pushup routine so Hall of Famers don't look at you and call you "too skinny."
"Magic inspired me by telling me I wasn't going to make it, that I was too little," said Howard. "I was in 10th grade when he told me I was too skinny to play in the NBA. I said, 'OK, we'll see.'"
Thousands upon thousands of pushups later, Howard developed into one of the most unstoppable forces in the game. And it's those words from Magic Johnson that, you can tell, still eat at him and inspire him to train to this day.
Howard shares those training methods in "miCoach" and hopes to inspire kids who are looking to get in better shape and who want a superstar to help motivate them as they play.
Here's what Howard had to tell me about the game after we watched a quick demo, as we talked "miCoach," pushups and what he'd like to see in "NBA 2K12."
Jon Robinson: Why should gamers put down their controllers and stop shooting each other in "Call of Duty" in order to work out with you in "adidas miCoach"?
Dwight Howard: I don't want to say that they have to put those games down just to play this game, but it's important for kids to play "miCoach" for 20 to 30 minutes to help get in shape. A lot of kids are like me -- I'm not going to lie, I sit around with my friends and play "Call of Duty" all the time, but we're just sitting around and being lazy. But if you could put it down for just 20 to 30 minutes a day and train, you can get in shape. We have a problem with that in America. And since we can't get the kids outside anymore, since we can't get adults out to a facility, now we're going into their world, the virtual world, to train them.
Jon Robinson: Can you give some examples of workouts you teach in "miCoach" so we know what type of training we're in for?
Dwight Howard: Different types of pushups and crunches, then I also teach some workouts that I do for my legs and my back. There are a lot of exercises out there that will get you stronger, and a lot of what I'm into are exercises to keep your core strong. If your core is strong, everything else will fall in place.
Jon Robinson: I heard a rumor that you do 500 pushups every day. True or false?
Dwight Howard: It's true. That's a great way to get strong. It's a competition between me and some of my friends.
Jon Robinson: How do you guys challenge each other with pushups?
Dwight Howard: The challenge right now is doing 100 without stopping. It's pretty hard, and there's only one person in our group who has accomplished that, and it's the smallest one.
Jon Robinson: Do you think "miCoach" will help motivate people when they see guys like yourself and C.J. Spiller in the game teaching them techniques on how to be better players in sports like basketball and football?
Dwight Howard: I think so. Just to be able to sit there and to be able to work out with your favorite star, no matter what sport you love, and that star is pushing you to actually get better. It's not like it's your basketball coach or one of your teammates pushing you. It's actually a star from that sport telling you, "Hey, you can do this, pick it up." And the athletes aren't only encouraging you, they're teaching you techniques on how to improve. People are always asking me on Twitter, "How much do you bench press? How do you get your shoulders like that? What do you do when you work out?" Now they get the opportunity to see what I do when I work out.
Jon Robinson: Beyond "miCoach," I know you're a big gamer. What are some of your favorite games right now?
Dwight Howard: I'm a huge gamer. I take my Xbox on the road with me. One of my favorite games right now is "WWE All-Stars." I love that game. I couldn't wait for it to come out. John Cena, The Rock and The Undertaker are my favorites. Other than that, I'm always on "Call of Duty" and I'm always playing "NBA 2K11."
Jon Robinson: Ever play as Michael Jordan in "2K11" and try to dunk on yourself?
Dwight Howard: I haven't tried to dunk as myself, but every time I try to play as Jordan, my friends think I'm cheating and want me to play as somebody else. The crazy thing about "NBA 2K11" is it's so realistic, you actually have to shoot like the person in order to make the shot.
Jon Robinson: When you play "NBA 2K11," do you ever trade yourself to other teams to scout out how you would do if you signed with a new team in free agency?
Dwight Howard: Oh, no. That's a good trick question. [laughs] I've never done that. For the most part, I just like to test out each team before picking who I like to play with. It seems like most people like to play with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the game. They're a real good team in the video game.
Jon Robinson: Since you play so much "NBA 2K11," what do you think needs to be added to the game for "NBA 2K12" in order to take it to the next step?
Dwight Howard: I think they underestimate certain players in the game. Even myself, they have me super slow in the game. It takes me like 30 seconds to get down the court. I'm like, "I'm not that slow!" One thing I would like to see added to the game are actual player entrances when the players get to the building. Every player has their own style, so it would be cool to see LeBron show up in his jeans with a sweater and bow tie. I think people will really enjoy, not only playing as these guys in the game, but also check out their individual styles and the clothes they like to wear.
Jon Robinson: The "miCoach" game doesn't come out until 2012, but I was just wondering, as a fat, married and unmotivated gamer, how are you going to motivate me to get moving?
Dwight Howard: The first thing is believing in yourself and believing that you can go to another level in training. We can always be better and get better. For myself, I want to get stronger. People say I'm too strong, but I still want to get stronger, and when it comes to basketball, I want to become a better player. I want to become a better shooter and a better post-up player, so I keep working out to get better. If you're looking for motivation to get in shape, I'll just tell you to do it for your kids so they can have someone to look up to. If they see their dad training hard to try and get in great shape, they'll want to do it too.