While this homecoming doesn’t have as much drama surrounding it as LeBron James return to Cleveland, it is going to take a close second. Howard basically grew up in the city of Orlando calling it home since he was drafted into the NBA at age 18. In his eight seasons with the Magic fans grew to love him as much or more than any other player who had ever contributed to the team. For a small market team like the Magic he was not only the face of their organization but also a beacon of hope. As hard as it is for smaller NBA franchises to obtain top tier talent anymore the city won the lottery in more ways than one when they had a chance to draft Dwight. Dwight went on to become a top five NBA talent for the Magic & expanded their fan base with his fun loving persona as ‘Superman’. All of this culminated with a finals appearance for the Magic in arguably Howard’s best statistical season as a pro.
But Superman’s time as a pro could not come to a fairy tale ending. In the modern NBA the divorce rate between superstar players and small market teams is sky rocketing, and these are not cordial splits but nasty severances that hinder superstars and cities alike. Howard’s mess of a departure involved getting a coach axed and flip flopping on his decision to stay or go several times before the Magic dealt Dwight to the Los Angeles Lakers in a wild four team trade. Magic fans and citizens lost their favorite player and the promise of their franchise all in one fell swoop. For a city that already had a superstar talent leave at the center position in Shaquille O’Neal, for LA nonetheless, the loss was just too much to bear.
Upon Howard’s return the city is holding a popular countdown on several billboards reading ‘Until Dwight Leaves Us Again’. The Magic franchise, it’s fans, and it’s 18-46 record are not over the relationship. A loss at the hands of a hot Lakers team should only deepen the wound tonight. For the Magic the ‘dwightmare’ continues, Orlando you have my sympathy