Just three years ago, Dwight Howard was the belle of the ball. Charming, funny, charismatic and dominant. As Chris Berman often says, "I would know because I was there."
For reasons still unknown, I was awarded an Orlando Magic press credential as a local television intern in 2009. I, alongside the remainder of Orlando's media, stuck a microphone in Dwight Howard's face before practice and after games.
Never negative, always playful, Dwight owned every room he was in. An enemy to no one, Dwight would always say the right thing off the court and dominate on it.
En route to an NBA Finals appearance, Dwight Howard led the entire city of Orlando into a land of possibility. A city known for Mickey Mouse was finally on the map for sports fans across the country. Despite that Magic loss to the LAKERS, people realized the potential that the once in a generation big man brought this city devoid of any sports history.
Then "it" happened. In the years since 2009, Dwight changed. Essentially, a switch was flipped. He envied those in bigger markets. He grew tired of hard-working coach Stan Van Gundy. And he lost his love for the city that raised him since high school graduation day.
Dwight Howard outgrew this city. Searching for fame, championships (?) and more cash, Dwight set his sights elsewhere.
Today, as he's introduced as a Los Angeles Laker, one wonders when the switch was flipped. And why? What did the Magic do that was so bad? What did the fan base do to deserve this?
In most large American cities, when a superstar bolts town in one sport, there's another team just waiting for your attention. But not here. Not in Orlando, where bitter taxpayers now drive by an empty state-of-the-art basketball arena, the only professional sports venue in town. And they wonder, when did Dwight Howard flip the switch?
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