With the Orlando Magic franchise in its 25th year this season, there has been regular celebration for past Magic greats at the home games. These have ranged from Anfernee Hardaway to Zaza Pachulia and everybody in between. The video tributes that have played at the end of quarters and at halftime have proved extremely popular with fans at the games, eager to relive the glory days this still young franchise has lived through. Wednesday night will see the Houston Rockets and former Orlando idol Dwight Howard pop into town for a game and as a result he will receive a video tribute sometime during the game. Given the circumstances in which he left the team though, is this a good idea?
Depending on where in the world you are, these events may already have occurred by the time you are reading this. So if you disagree with everything that is written here or it proves to be embarrassingly wide of the mark, feel free to lay into the writer in the comments section below. As we can’t see into the future, there is reason to believe this could all go quite badly with fans booing loudly and the organizers ending up with egg on their faces. Of course Howard left in horrible fashion in 2012 when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers and on his return to Orlando with that team last season he was deservedly booed. The thing is, the Rockets aren’t the Lakers and are not hated quite so passionately by other supporters around the league. Yes Dwight is gone, but what the Magic got in return was as good as it was going to get and some fans forget this. Although most were disgusted that the blockbuster trade that sent Howard to the purple and gold didn’t end with the Magic receiving either Andre Iguodala or Andrew Bynum, this has proved to be a blessing in disguise. Both players moved in the four team trade, but since then Bynum has been a train wreck and it’s fairly safe to assume Iguodala would have moved on in free agency, in much the same was as he did when leaving the Denver Nuggets for the Golden State Warriors. So although the Magic would have loved to have kept Howard, it all ended about as well as it could have.
Add to that the fact that casual basketball fans have insanely short memories, and suddenly this looks like a good idea. Remember, when LeBron James left Cleveland, on another scale entirely to the Howard move but not all that different a situation, his jersey was literally burned on national television. The outcry and anger at his departure looked downright dangerous and stupid at times. Fast forward four years, and some of these same fans are now lobbying hard for his return to the Cavaliers when he becomes a free agent, an unthinkable prospect given the hatred aimed at James not that long ago. Howard will never again play for the Magic, but like any messy breakup, there comes a point when both sides admit that they made mistakes and can be amicable to each other going forward.
Regardless of how the fans react, the Magic come across as a classy organization, so this tribute may actually be a shrewd PR move too. If the fans boo, those at the top can still come out and say we are thankful for what Howard gave us in his time here, even if the fans are not. Should everybody cheer, it suddenly becomes a love in that few people would have seen coming, again making Orlando look great in the process. At the end of the day it is only a video, and this team looks like it is not haunted by the specter of their ex larger than life center’s ghost anymore. They are firmly focused on the future and with the exciting young roster they have, who could blame them?
There will probably be some boos when the video does eventually play, but there are some who just cannot forgive Dwight Howard for leaving, and in some ways that is understandable. It is clear looking back that Howard carries himself a lot better than he did then, and understands and accepts he could have handled leaving the Orlando Magic in a more professional manner. He is gone now though, and even if many would take him back, that is never going to happen. A little thank you video couldn’t hurt, but you can bet that this Magic team will be going hard for the victory over the Rockets, to prove to Howard that although he was the center of their universe before, they are doing just fine without him now.