When the Orlando Magic drafted Dwight Howard with the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, it was to be their franchise player.
After allowing Shaquille O’Neal to walk in free agency in one of the most head-scratching decisions in the franchise’s relatively young history, then Magic GM John Weisbrod was afforded a second opportunity to land an All-World center to build a contender around moving forward.
And yet, much like the first time around, things ended tragically for the NBA franchise located just up the street from the Magic Kingdom, as Howard wiggled his way out of Orlando to those pesky Los Angeles Lakers like Shaq before him in a four-team trade that netted the Philadelphia 76ers Andre Bynum and near-singlehandedly set “The Process” into motion.
From there, Howard was traded three more times and became a member of the Houston Rockets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Los Angeles Lakers once more before he finally landed in the City of Brotherly Love on a one-year, veteran minimum deal worth $2,564,753 or roughly 2,590,400.53 .99 cent Wendy’s frostys in a state like Delaware with no state tax.
So, dare I ask, why would it be particularly surprising to see Howard pop up courtside at one of his former haunts to watch some Eastern Conference Finals basketball on a balmy summer Sunday night? Based on his extensive NBA journey, I’m frankly surprised we haven’t seen such an occurrence happen more often.
Howard guaranteed that one Philadelphia 76ers player made it to the Finals.
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At his core, Dwight Howard is an Atlanta man through and through.
He was born in Atlanta, played his high school ball at the Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, and opted to sign the biggest contract of his career, a massive three-year free agency deal worth $70.5 million, with the city’s NBA franchise, even if he was ultimately traded to Charlotte after one of the weirder seasons you’ll see.
Let’s just say, when some of your former teammates reportedly ‘screamed in jubilation‘ upon finding out that you’d been traded, it might be time to reevaluate some things.
So naturally, when his season came to a premature end at the hands of those very Atlanta Hawks, it would make sense for Howard to return home to spend some time with friends and family, right? Howard still owns an $8.8 million mansion just outside the city, and he has a few months off to rest, relax, and contemplate where he will continue on with his NBA career heading into his 18th NBA season.
So, I ask rhetorically, what does a lifelong basketballer do on a Sunday night when an Eastern Conference Finals game is a hop, skip, and an Uber away? When you’ve earned north of $242 million over your NBA career, you buy courtside seats and watch yourself a game.
And because this is 2021, you know someone – okay, a lot of people – had to capture it for the world to see.
Yeah, that became a meme real quick.
Now, to be fair, Howard tried his best to avoid being caught watching the enemy. He wore a mask and opted for a tasteful hoodie over the usual red, white, blue, and sometimes black basketball jersey fans had become accustomed to around these parts, but come on. How many other 6-foot-10, 265-pound men with dyed-blonde hair can afford seats like that? Seven?
*sigh* at least he tried.
Is Dwight Howard within his rights to catch an Atlanta Hawks game? 100 percent. Plenty of eliminated players have turned up at other games this season, and no one batted an eye. But because it’s “Superman,” this picture simply folds into the… unique NBA career of one of the most enigmatic players in NBA history. But hey, he could still be back with the Philadelphia 76ers next season; that’s something, right?