The Orlando Magic are in the process of celebrating the franchise's 25th anniversary. It is a time of reflection, including the good, the bad and the awkward.
With that in mind, it is only fitting that the Magic aired a video tribute to their former center Dwight Howard between the first and second quarters of Wednesday's game against Howard's current team, the Houston Rockets.
Though Howard was booed during introductions, not to mention every single time he touched the ball in the first quarter, the reaction to the video was mixed. See the video above and the fan reaction below.
Orlando has shown several similar videos during the season-long anniversary celebration, but the Howard tribute is naturally a bit more complicated than the ones for Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson.
After all, this was the same player who forced a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012 after an achingly drawn-out severing of relations with the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004. Howard wasn't the first player to pull such a power move to get himself traded, but his juvenile, two-faced ways made a bad situation even worse.
The Howard soap opera culminated in perhaps the most awkward press conference in sports history when head coach Stan Van Gundy openly accused his star player of trying to get the him fired:
Even Howard's current teammate (and Florida native) Chandler Parsons admitted he would have booed if he were still a young Magic fan, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Lifelong Magic fan Chandler Parsons said if he were still a kid in the stands, would boo Dwight Howard tonight, too. (He let T-Mac slide.)— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 5, 2014
But no celebration of the team's history would be complete without acknowledging their former defensive anchor. Howard made six All-Star teams and won three Defensive Player of the Year awards during his time in the Magic Kingdom. He still holds the franchise record for total minutes, points and rebounds.
While Howard received a brief tribute, it certainly didn't match the lavish ceremonies afforded to the likes of Hardaway, Anderson and Tracy McGrady.
Evan Dunlap of SB Nation's Orlando Pinstriped Post appreciated the team's approach to acknowledging Howard:
The Magic won't treat Howard any differently than it did New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach Randy Ayers, Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia, Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, or any of the other former Magic players and coaches when their respective teams visited Amway Center.
These videos present their subjects in a positive light--they show highlights, after all, and express gratitude--but their real beauty lies in the fact that they empower fans to react however they like. The folks in attendance can respond to the figures they depict with indifference, as in Ayers' case; amusement, as in Pachulia's; or with raucous cheering, as in Redick's. We ought to commend the Magic for demonstrating an awareness of and an appreciation for their history.
Howard expressed his appreciation for the tribute before the game, according to Feigen:
Told of the video tribute planned, Howard said he "might get a little emotional. I had some great moments here, ones I'll never forget."— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 5, 2014
In the end, both parties are likely better off putting this evening in the rear-view mirror. Howard is on a contending Rockets team that is steamrolling toward the postseason. The Magic got a tremendous haul for their former star in Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic. They will also have two first-round picks in the 2014, 2016 and 2017 drafts.
The present is bright for Howard in Houston. The future is bright for the fans in Orlando.