Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods.
Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard said afterward that he was appreciative of the team’s gesture, and that he understands the fans’ level of frustration with the way things ended for him in the city.
“I think people remember all the bad things that happen,” Howard said. “They forget all the good things that happen. There’s a lot of great moments that happened here in Orlando.
“Last year, it was fresh for a lot of the Magic fans. They were upset with how things went down. At the end of the day, I think time heals all wounds. Even though it’s only been a year, I’ve forgiven the people I needed to forgive and hopefully the fans will forgive me for how the situation ended. My love for this city will never change.
“I played here. People are upset I left so they’re going to boo. They’re going to let their frustrations out. That’s totally understandable. I appreciate all the fans that did cheer. The reason I left had nothing to do with the fans. I’ll always been grateful to the people that supported me from day one.”
The fans may eventually forgive Howard for the way he forced his way out, along with the very public way he essentially lied about throwing his head coach under the bus in the process.
But honestly, it was too soon to pay tribute to Howard in this way, despite the fact that the team has done it for every past player that’s returned to Orlando during this anniversary season. Howard was bigger than all of them, and the fans are going to need much more than a season or two to get over the unprofessional and petulant way he abandoned the Magic franchise.