How Dwight Howard Ripped the Heart of Orlando Magic Fans

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic smiles during the game against the Miami Heat at Amway Center on March 13, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Once upon a time, the city of Orlando loved Dwight Howard as much as a city possibly could love a player. With his goofy personality and excellent on-court play, Howard was one of the most popular players in the NBA

But now, Howard is among the least-liked players in the league, arguably even more so than LeBron James. This seemed impossible two years ago, but now it is a reality. 

He claimed that he didn't want to put his teammates and fans through the media circus that he created. 

Howard was a demigod in the city of Orlando, where a new arena was built that was thought to be worthy of the city's Superman. Magic fans could laugh in the face of Miami Heat fans and claim that their superstar was more loyal than LeBron. 

How silly Orlando looks now. Howard's actions have made LeBron look like Tim Duncan. 

The entire situation has been so painful because of the past. How could Howard, Orlando's Superman, hurt Magic fans so much? 

How could the man who led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals mess with our emotions for over a year?

The answer: Orlando just isn't a big enough pond anymore. 

Howard wants to play with other superstars in a big market. Due to Orlando's cap situation and limited market, he needs to go elsewhere to get his wish. 

When Howard signed away his right to opt out of his contract earlier this year, he said that he had been given bad advice and that he loved Orlando. 

I wonder what he would say now. 

Is he still getting bad advice?  

Does he still love Orlando?

The city knows the answer, and that is why he needs to be traded. The pain has gotten too great. As amazing as Howard's career in Orlando was, it will take time to consider him as the greatest player in Orlando Magic history.

Superman has betrayed Orlando, the city that used to be enough, but not anymore. He wants a big market and all the endorsements that come with it. 

The problem in his plan?

He has lost the popularity that made him the target of so many endorsement deals.

If Howard had been honest from the start about wanting to leave Orlando, it wouldn't have ended like this. Sure, Magic fans would have been upset if he said he wanted out, but nothing like how upset they are now. 

It is unbelievable to say that Magic fans are anticipating the day that Howard is dealt to another team, but that is the truth. 

The way Howard has handled this situation has been nothing short of heartbreaking for his former loyalists. Magic fans backed Howard throughout most of the season, slamming GM Otis Smith's personnel decisions. They believed that Howard wanted to be in Orlando, if only Smith could put a championship-caliber team on the floor.

That wasn't the case though.

Fans believed that if the Magic made the coaching change that Howard demanded, then maybe he would consider staying for the long term. 

As it turns out, such optimism was more than misguided. Stan Van Gundy, who was the winningest coach in Magic history, was fired in a final attempt to appease Howard. Retrospectively, why did Magic fans think that would work?

If only Orlando could have Van Gundy back; he never deserved to be fired. In the first round of last season's playoffs, he proved that he was among the best coaches in the league. Somehow, someway, he managed to make the Magic's undermanned squad look competitive in four of the five games against the Indiana Pacers

The writing was on the wall, but Magic fans didn't want to believe it. 

Looking back, it is clear that Howard wanted to move on. Nonetheless, he has devastated the city of Orlando.

Whether Howard regains his league-wide popularity remains a question mark, but his actions have guaranteed that Magic fans will root against him, no matter where he ends up. 

This isn't the first time Orlando has lost a Hall of Fame center, either, as Shaquille O'Neal left for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996.

Being a Magic fan at the moment is difficult, for what looked like a bright future is now dark and uncertain. 

Orlando will be fine, because Howard will have to go through LeBron to get a ring. It's funny how yesterday's villain can become tomorrow's hero.

I would rather see LeBron James win a dozen rings before Howard wins one; that is how much Dwight has hurt Magic fans.

Howard will make another team's fanbase very happy, but his betrayal to a city that loved him will never be forgotten.