Dwight Howard has revealed the mother of his six-year-old son died nearly six weeks ago due to an epileptic seizure.
Although the Los Angeles Lakers star has spent the NBA's hiatus dealing with the difficult task of explaining Melissa Rios' death to their son, he is also grateful for the chance to heal from the loss without the daily grind of the NBA schedule.
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“It's been one of the toughest things I've ever had to deal with,” Howard said.
“It's really hard, especially during this time. There's nowhere to go.
“Usually if things are happening, we have basketball or something to keep our minds going. But a situation like this, it's a situation that I'll have to deal with forever because of our child.”
Howard spoke Friday about Rios’ death on a video call from his offseason home in Georgia, where he is staying with his children during the coronavirus pandemic.
Howard said he had a cordial relationship with Rios, and he was literally texting her to invite her to stay with him in Georgia when he learned she had died.
“It was very difficult to handle,” Howard said.
“It was kind of hard to process. It still is. But I did attend the funeral. There was no way that I could not be there for my son, and even for her family.
“I definitely would have felt like that would have been bad, because she deserves - he would deserve better if I didn't do that.”
Howard using virus break as a chance to grow
Howard has five children between the ages of 6 and 12, and he is seizing the chance to be a hands-on parent during this unwanted break from his first season back with the Lakers.
Howard and his children build bonfires, play card games, work out together and play hide-and-seek on his 23-acre property.
“It's been bittersweet, because I do want to play basketball, but my son right now needs me more than anything,” Howard said.
“It's a situation that I would never expect, nobody would ever expect, especially right now, this pandemic. So it's just kind of given me some more perspectives on life.”
Before Rios' death added a tragic turn, the pandemic had already interrupted an inspiring season for the 34-year-old Howard.
The eight-time All-Star selection has improbably become both a valuable reserve for the Western Conference-leading Lakers and a fan favourite at Staples Centre, where he was the fans’ most reviled player for the past six years since he initially left the Lakers in 2013.
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way, the Lakers were 49-14 before the pause in their rocky season.
They had already persevered through a tumultuous preseason trip to China, followed by franchise icon Kobe Bryant's death in a helicopter crash.
“I think that I've had the best time of my life just enjoying the moment,” Howard said.
“I was like, 'Man, this is a really good feeling.' We were winning. We've had different obstacles come up, like the stuff that was happening in China, and then obviously the Kobe situation, and then with the coronavirus happening, it's kind of like, 'Man, it just seemed like this was it.'
“All the things that I had talked about and worked on in myself, I was seeing it coming to fruition, so it hurt to see everything stop.”
Sad news. Dwight Howard said that the mom of his 6-year-old son died about 6 weeks ago unrelated to COVID-19. This whole time has given him perspective on various issues.
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 15, 2020