When OrlandoMagic.com beat writer John Denton informed Jerry and myself on Monday that the Magic would indeed have a video tribute for Dwight Howard I was pleasantly surprised. All season long, in celebrating their 25th anniversary, Orlando has welcomed back current players and coaches, who at one point played or coached in Orlando, with a video tribute during the game. It has been a nice stroll down memory lane, even for the most obscure players.
There is nothing obscure about Dwight Howard.
Last year, in his first game in Orlando as a non-member of the Orlando Magic, he was booed more, jeered louder, and treated as poorly as any player I’ve ever seen upon returning here. It was an unbelievable scene to be witness to. Basically, what you’d expect and hope for if you were the home team.
Now two years (and two teams) removed, there is clearly still bitterness among the fan-base. Everyone heals differently and at different speeds. I expect it to be a rowdy crowd tonight, but probably a step down from last season.
I believe Dwight Howard is the greatest Magic player in franchise history. So does our Eric Lopez who ranked the top 25 players in team history. Honoring him, as they have others, makes sense. But I really was surprised that they are doing it.
This is the same team they gave away Howard’s #12 jersey less than a year after he left to Tobias Harris. Normally, for any good player, it is customary to wait a few seasons, and then either think about giving it away or retiring it some day (and therefore keeping it out of circulation). Let’s call it the cooling period.
I felt the Orlando Magic made a poor choice reacting like a spurned and jilted lover. I mean, LeBron’s exit was worse in Cleveland, and the Cavs still haven’t given away #23 yet. And I’d guess they never will.
I’m happy the Magic made the right decision on the video tribute though. If the fans don’t like it, then they should boo. The key is letting the fans decide their reaction to Howard, not the team making the call for them. The team would have come across childish not doing for Dwight Howard what they have for everyone else.
Some Magic fans may still dislike Shaq, or T-Mac, or whoever that came here and left. Many, as time has passed, have come around to remembering those players for the good times they brought to the city with their play. Dwight Howard should one day be thought of as a cherished part of Magic history, even if that day isn’t today.
The 17 thousand in the building can do what they want during and after the video. The Magic took the high road allowing them that opportunity.