The long, public and rather ugly, parting between the Orlando Magic and the best center of his generation Dwight Howard, finally took place last month as the big man is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers; part of a four-team multi-player trade. Although Howard, had differences with his former team, he truly had grown to love the city and the fans of Orlando and on Sunday, he expressed his feelings in the “Orlando Sentinel,” with a full-page ad thanking the fans for their support during the first eight years of his career in the Association. Among other things, the center told the fans “Although my career with the Magic has come to a close, my love for the city and the people that make it beautiful will never end.”
For those of us who cover and follow the Association; if we have learned nothing else since July 1, 2011, it is that the NBA is a business, first. The greatest problem with that scenario; is it is the customers, the fans of the Association; who constantly end up with the short end of the stick. They suffered through an abridged campaign last year, that most likely led to the rash of injuries that took some of the game’s brightest lights off of the hardwood; many who will miss lots of games in the upcoming season before they return to action.
The fans also suffer throughout the years as their favorite players are suddenly playing for an opposing team; due to Free Agency or a trade, especially when it is a player the caliber of “D-12,” a true thow-back in an era of very few dominant centers in the NBA. New Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan and the team’s new head coach Jacque Vaughn have their work cut out for them, as Orlando could end up in the Lottery at the end of the regular season.
I am not quite sure how Howard’s tribute to the fans will play out around the Amway Center and the surrounding communities; however I can tell you that this reporter, was very pleased by the act. In the big scheme of things; it is certainly not an act that is going to alter society, or better humanity; but it was “The Right Thing To Do” and the first case that I know of, in the last few years of the Association. It was in this longtime NBA observer’s a generous and caring tribute to the residents and fans, who had supported him from the day he put on a Magic uniform.
As I just wrote; I can not predict how Magic fans will react to Howard’s gesture; I can only give my opinion on the subject. In a similar scenario, I can not speak for Cleveland Cavaliers fans; however as a reporter who covered LeBron James for his first three full seasons and his first trip to the Finals in 2007; I would have felt a lot less bitter about his taking his talents to South Beach had he come clean with his former fans. But James never seemed to get it, that year, saying that an NBA Championship would mean just as much to fans in Miami as it would to fans in Cleveland.
So Dwight Howard, kudos from this corner for what I perceive as a classy gesture. Hopefully more players will follow your lead in the future.