Dwight seeing his #12 jersey hanging in the Amway Center rafters very well could and should happen... one day. But only if the longest one-team stretch of his career ends up being during those 8 years in O-Town. 6-time All-Star, 3 straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, 5-time All-NBA 1st team, 4-time All-NBA Defensive 1st team, main piece in 2009 NBA Finals run. Let's not forget that Dwight is the franchise career leader in points, free throws, offensive and defensive rebounds, blocks, true shooting percentage, and more. Dwight's problem isn't statistical. Numerical evidence is a problem for guys like Penny, Shaq, Tracy, Nick, and Darrell. The issue everyone has with Dwight is his mouth and a need for a prolonged cooling off period before appreciation can settle in.
So how does Dwight insure that he gets his wish of having his jersey retired by O-Town? Here's what he has to do:
1. Let Your Numbers Do All the Talking
Which I just took care of above. His name can't be blacked out of the team record books. Don't talk about how you hate talking about yourself...and the continue talking about yourself. I was hoping Dwight got all the egotistically ignorant statements out of his system when he left Los Angeles, but nope. I wouldn't be shocked if some of his Rockets teammates don't already hate him. I mean, Howard's already referred to Jeremy Lin as the current version of 2009 Anthony 'Old Man River' Johnson. No big deal.
2. Don't Win a Title in Houston
Or anywhere else for that matter before your 35th birthday. If Dwight plays let’s say less than 6 years in Houston and doesn’t win a title with the Rockets, then for me, he’s still an obvious candidate for jersey retirement in Orlando because his best years will still have been in Orlando. Supposedly, Kevin McHale's coaching staff will be receiving Dwight's prime production. I'm not so sure of that with James Harden running the show. I don't know what ownership's opinion is of Houston still, I haven't heard Rich DeVos comment on anything in forever, but that's the franchise that decimated the Magic in the '95 Finals. That wouldn't sit well with me if Dwight helps add to the Rockets' trophy count when we're still at zero. If Howard is a main cog in the Rockets winning a championship in the next few years, then he'll be known in the world basketball spectrum as a Rocket. Same thing with Shaq. Once O'Neal got that first ring in 2000, he was purple and gold forever. If Dwight never wins a championship, Orlando's celebration of his misery for being ring-less will eventually turn to sympathy and eventually a support for remembering the good times we had for almost a decade.
3. Start Re-constructing Burned Bridges
Good news, Dwight, you're mostly already there. You don't have to apologize to Bob Vander Weide or Otis Smith probably ever. You already patched things up with Stan. All of his old teammates are out of here except Jameer and Glen Davis. If you watched Orlando's preseason loss at Houston Wednesday night you'd know that Nelson and Dwight were more than chummy when it came to huge-smiled chit-chat. All that's left to appease is the DeVos family. Oh, and millions of Magic fans. Rich DeVos may not be still alive when this jersey debate comes up after Dwight's retirement, but his children and benefactors will have a major influence. Hell, I wouldn't be shocked if Rich and Helen already have this matter spelled out in their will. Dwight's kind of shown his affection towards the Magic fans, but there's a long way to go in that marathon. Somewhere around 2020 is when the Orlando community could positively give its vote of approval for a jersey honoring. I'm also assuming the Magic will be winning multiple playoff series by then.
4. Pray Tobias Harris Doesn't Kick Ass in Pinstripes
There is another factor that we haven't fully considered: What if Tobias Harris has a better Orlando tenure than Dwight? It wouldn't take too much if he can be a big piece to an Orlando championship banner. If T12 can be a Carmelo-lite, then Harris will earn his All-Star selections. The sky is the limit for a 21-year-old who can post 17 points and 8 boards with relative calm.
As far as Tobias wearing #12, Harris has a very appropriate reason for doing so and it’s something Dwight needs to back off on. Howard got traded, but let's be honest, he forced his way out of Orlando. The fact that Hennigan can say he got the better of Philadelphia, Denver, and the Lakers is still a miraculous feat considering those crippling circumstances.
Let's examine the ugly Stan Van Gundy mess closer. Both Dwight and SVG have already forgiven one another. Dwight's quoted as saying he'd love to be coached by Mr. Diet Pepsi again in the future and vice versa. SVG has mentioned in local radio interviews how he and Dwight chat and text on a regular basis and that Van Gundy highly recommended Houston as Dwight's destination from L.A. As far as I know, Dwight is also still very charitably active in the community, including having donated to an SVG Seminole County cause or two.
Old wounds can heal fast. Especially when front offices change. We're about to see Tracy McGrady get honored by the franchise for the home season opener on November 1st after T-MAC forced his way out of Orlando in the summer of 2004...to Houston. Remember, Tracy wanted the #1 pick traded for veterans because McGrady didn't want to go through a rebuild. There are no remnants of John Weisbrod's bulldozer to be found in this town. The only common ground that this franchise has seen during the ugly exits of Shaq, Penny, Tracy, and Dwight is PA announcing stud Paul Porter and the DeVos ownership. I don't know how tight the other 3 past players are with the DeVos family. But if Shaq can maintain that special bond still with Rich and company, then I don't see why Dwight can't eventually earn that love back. I'd like to hear Alex Martins' thoughts on that.
We're entering the 25th season of Orlando being a major sports town. By my count we're looking at maybe around ten years before we really see a Magic jersey other than #6 ('The Fans') being retired. There's no dispute that Dwight currently has had the best Magic career in this franchise's existence. It's just a matter of a few things, mostly time, going in Dwight's favor for his request to come true. Magic fans can't remain steaming mad forever.