5 Orlando Magic stories that deserve its own documentary

Darrell Armstrong and Doc Rivers headlines the Orlando Magic's Heart & Hustle team, a group that deserves its story told. (Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport)
Darrell Armstrong and Doc Rivers headlines the Orlando Magic's Heart & Hustle team, a group that deserves its story told. (Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport) /
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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – DECEMBER 25: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic looks inside as Nazr Mohammed #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder defends during the NBA season opening game December 25, 2011 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City led Orlando at the half. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

The Dwightmare

There is one story that is probably still too raw to tell. Somehow all the great Orlando Magic stories end in heartbreak and frustration. That is what happens when you have not won a title and every star player left under poor circumstances.

Still, no story was as strange and bizarre as Dwight Howard’s story. His final year in Orlando may not be The Last Dance worthy — it definitely is not as it was a horrendous slog through a lockout-shortened season. But it was a tragic tale nonetheless.

Howard entered the league in the 2004 Draft as an innocent high schooler. He reportedly dreamed of introducing a version of the NBA logo with the cross in it. He wanted to be great and had the innocence and desire to get there.

He did get there too. He was one of the most popular players in the world, playing with a joy and carefree spirit that carried him to All-NBA teams, All-Star teams and three straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

But the act got tired. And while there was joy in the rise, staying on the top proved to be a serious business that he could not maintain.

After falling in the 2009 Finals, the Magic struggled to keep the team contending for a title. And the weight of expectation crushed him.

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  • His fall happened far beyond what happened on the court. The Magic’s window closed too quickly. The team could barely respond. But Howard also struggled to convince others to play alongside him. As super teams got built, Howard got left behind.

    Howard’s final year in Orlando was as bizarre as things get. It was full of drama as the Magic tried desperately to hang onto their once-in-a-generation center and avoid losing another one to free agency.

    Former Orlando Sentinel beat writer Brian Schmitz wrote a book compiling all his stories from throughout that strange 2012 season.

    Facing an ultimatum from the Magic, Howard would not commit and requested a trade before the season. Orlando promised it would try to oblige him all the while both sides playing for each other.

    But it was clear Howard was not fully into it.

    The trade deadline approached and Howard suddenly changed his mind. He would agree to stay and give the Magic another year. Everyone was happy. Loyalty t-shirts were printed.

    Everything went further south after that.

    Stan Van Gundy admitted Dwight Howard wanted him fired at one point (reportedly after the Magic’s playoff loss in 2011). And then Howard sidled up next to him to deny it.

    Then Howard suffered the first real injury of his career and the relationship with the Magic was broken. But Howard was never the same. He never returned to an All-NBA level.

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    His career is one of tragedy and missed potential. It is one of a player still trying to mature and grow up in a man’s game. And one who never quite discovered how great he could be.