Dwight Howard does not owe you anything
With the boos out-of-the-way, it’s time to move on. You booed him in the Amway Center, you booed him through your Twitter feed, you booed him through your TV. These are all deserved, in a sense, but it isn’t because of a debt unpaid. Dwight Howard isn’t “yours” anymore, nor was he “yours” to begin with.
He doesn’t owe you anything.
Dwight gave six and a half fantastic years in Orlando, one and a half tumultuous years and then left in the worst way he possibly could have. And I repeat, he left and is gone. You can boo him and I’d expect you to be plenty angry about how it ended, but you have to know that it is a reaction to your personal pain and pride, not a broken promise.
Dwight Howard was the center piece of a winning era that involved 371 regular season wins and six straight playoff appearances, including an overachieving NBA Finals team. He was the center piece of the winning era that helped push the development of the brand new Amway Center (plus that whole over-development bubble) that moved fans out of the decrepit Arena down the road. He brought with him a global marketing campaign by adidas that featured him wearing an ORLANDO Magic jersey. The exposure he brought the city and franchise in terms of branding is immeasurable.
In the end, he decided it was time to further his own brand. A grown up decision that some of you would have likely repeated, given the chance. A grown-up decision made by a young-adult, and executed like a child. Even then, it was his right to decide for himself as both a person and a basketball player. Also, don’t forget: the same infuriating immaturity that ruined those seasons for the Magic is also part of what made Dwight pick up his final year option. Without that, it would have been Otis Smith in charge of trading an expiring Dwight (which, we now know, would have been to LA Lakers for Andrew Bynum). For that, we probably owe him a “thank you” card.
What is left is…well, everything. A franchise that the city loves, a team that fans enjoy, an arena that is the envy of most teams. You owe it to yourselves, as fans, to move behind the rebuilding project. To hopefully groom the youth and talent of Maurice Harkless, Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris. To welcome the hope that will come this Summer in the way of a top-3 draft pick, and the knowledge that we have a front office that is finally outsmarting others (instead of just outspending others).
There are so many more positive ways to spend your time and energy on than hating Dwight Howard. Remembering the pain and anguish caused by Dwight doesn’t mean focusing on it. Let the wound heal, let the scar fade, and move right along in enjoying this team. You don’t owe him anything beyond the belief, fanaticism and love you’ve already delivered.
But never forget: his debt has been paid. He doesn’t owe anyone, anything. I don’t think you should take anything he gives, anyway.