Debating the Second Superman: SportsChump and Michael Lortz discuss a Dwight Howard return to the Magic and the possible retirement of his number

It began with a simple Tweet.

One afternoon, while wasting time on the internet, I happened upon a Twitter (X) post that suggested the Orlando Magic should retire Dwight Howard’s number and sign him to a final contract that would allow him to retire as a member of the team.

I pondered.

A lot has passed since Draft Night 2004 and the 2009 Finals.  Few top draft picks have had as tumultuous a departure as Howard did in Orlando.  The team has an unfortunate knack for making that happen.

I replied that honoring Dwight in such fashion might be a good idea, to which a dear friend and published author Michael Lortz, aka Jordi Scrubbings, disagreed.  You can find Michael’s works here.

You can also find our debate on the topic below.  Thank you, as always, for reading, and thank you, Michael for participating.

Sound off in the comments section, readers, on where you stand on Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.


On February 13, 2024, the Orlando Magic retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number.  His was the first player’s jersey the franchise had ever hung from its rafters.  The team has been around for thirty-five years.

If you know your Orlando Magic history, it makes perfect sense that the team retire the big fella’s number.  Or maybe it doesn’t.

He only played four years in a Magic uniform.  They all but ran him out of town, that now infamous Orlando Sentinel edition polling readers whether they thought he was worth a $100 million contract.  The majority voted that he wasn’t.  Think they got it wrong?

Shaq moved to L.A., signed with the Lakers (for more than $100 mil) and won three NBA championships.  The Magic were never the same.

Retiring Shaq’s number raises some interesting questions.  How long should a player play for your franchise before he qualifies?  I’m not sure how many other players have played for a franchise for only four years to see their number honored.  And if the Magic retired Shaquille’s jersey, how many others are in the running and where do they draw the line?

Dwight Howard was another top draft pick selected by the Orlando Magic, Shaq in 1992, Howard in 2004.  Like Shaq, Howard was a big man with an unhealthy Superman fetish.  Like Shaq, he led the Magic to their only other NBA Finals which they lost, somewhat ironically to the Los Angeles Lakers.

And like Shaq, Howard left the franchise under awkward circumstances.  For years, I ruthlessly and relentlessly criticized Howard who, after their Finals appearance, threw head coach Stan Van Gundy under the bus something fierce.  The whole episode derailed the franchise and tainted Howard’s career, so much so that he was left off the NBA’s top 75 players of all-time.  A quick look at his stat sheet, however, tells us he belongs.

Now a journeyman, Howard is an eight-time NBA All-star, a five-time member of the all-NBA team, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time rebounding leader, a two-time blocked shots leader and a Slam Dunk Champion.  He ranks tenth all-time in career rebounds, ahead of Shaquille O’Neal, and is 55th all-time in career scoring, ahead of Magic Johnson.

The year he took the Magic to the Finals, he steamrolled through LeBron’s Cavaliers and that loaded Boston Celtics team of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett.  He was pulling down rebounds like he was the only man on the court, averaging over 15 a game.

He just alienated a lot of people on his eventual way to the Hall of Fame.

Dwight Howard is old now, at least in basketball years.  He’s 38 and has played for seven different NBA teams.  Last year, he didn’t even play in the NBA.  He may not have learned his lesson.  Or he may have.  Only he knows for sure.

The 2024 Orlando Magic are a young, impressionable team but they damn well know who Dwight Howard is.  There are pictures of him all over the arena they play in, an arena he’s largely responsible for them building.

I highly doubt the strong-willed, new breed Magic, led by Paolo Banchero, would be negatively influenced by an aging Dwight Howard, especially since he’d hardly get any playing time except for mop-up minutes to give their big men some blows.  He might not even see any playing time at all.  But an enlightened Howard, if he exists, might even be able to give this young team some invaluable advice about the perils of the NBA, since he’s all too familiar with them.

I’d long criticized the Magic for not retiring a number.  But something happened in 2024 that coincided with the team showing promise for the first time in ages.  They reconciled with Shaquille O’Neal, who had never wronged the franchise.  He just took a better offer from a team that wanted him more.  By retiring Shaq’s number, they made amends.

On his way out the door, Dwight Howard wronged the franchise.  I’m sure there are regrets.  He’s not the first player to leave a franchise on bad terms.  But few other players have had an influence over Orlando like Howard.  He is the franchise all-time leader in points scored, rebounds and blocked shots.  Maybe it’s about time they talked to the second most famous big man in franchise history to see where his head is at, to see if he’s learned anything and to see if coming home might be beneficial for both parties involved. 

I’m not saying all’s well that ends well, but it did in the case of Shaquille O’Neal.  Perhaps giving that second Superman a phone call might add well-needed closure to the Dwight Howard era and continue the path to good faith upon which the team has already embarked.

Jordi Scrubbings:

A few weeks ago, the Sports Chump asked me if Dwight Howard should have his number retired by the Orlando Magic. As the Orlando Magic have only retired one player’s number, the illustrious Shaquille O’Neal, it was a good question and one that definitely requires postulation and analysis.

I say “no way”. Not any time soon.

Let me start this with the fact that I love big men.

Woah, that came out awkward. Let me restart.

I am a fan of the style of basketball that revolves around large men banging bodies and grabbing balls.

Damn it. One more time.

I like watching old school basketball in which the style of play revolves around the center position. I enjoy centers who invoke the olden days of Ewing, Robinson, Olajuwon, Shaq, Yao, Smits, and even ol’ Gheorge Muresan. Who can forget ol’ Gheorge Muresan?

For most of their existence, the Orlando Magic have succeeded when they had a dominant center. Once Shaq replaced Greg Kite and Stanley Roberts in 1992, the Magic offensive philosophy revolved around the Big Man. Yes, there was the T-Mac Era and other lesser-known eras, but until this year, the Magic have had the most success throwing the ball to a low post big man and surrounding him with shooters, slashers, and role players. It’s not a bad organizational philosophy if you can find the right big men.

From 2004 to 2012, the Magic had the right big man. Most of the time. At his best, Dwight Howard was a phenomenon. He was an explosive dunker with incredible rebounding ability and a knack for blocking shots. While he wasn’t as dominant as Shaq, he was a suitable replacement. If Shaq was an A+ big man, the prototype in which big men will always be judged, Dwight Howard was a B+ or maybe an A- at his peak.

That three-year peak – from 2007-2008 to 2009-2010 – included a trip to the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference finals. The Magic were very good and Dwight Howard was a hero. He was smiling and profiling his way to greatness. He won Defensive Player of the Year awards. He won slam dunk contests. He was one of the best and most marketable players in the NBA.

Then the wheels came off and Dwight Howard couldn’t be shipped out of Orlando faster.

Dwight Howard came to Orlando as an 18-year-old but left as a child. That’s the unfortunate truth. He whined and groaned until Head Coach Stan Van Gundy was fired. He whined and groaned until GM Otis Smith was fired. He whined and groaned until he was eventually traded to the Lakers in a massive 4-team trade in 2012. He embarrassed himself and tarnished his legacy.

Why did Dwight Howard want to leave Orlando so badly? Did the fans say he wasn’t worth the money, as they did with Shaq?

Dwight Howard didn’t feel like the Magic were moving in the right direction. He didn’t feel like the personnel around him were good enough to get back to the NBA Finals. So he asked the team to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets.

He might have had a point. The Magic offensive points per game dropped from 6th in the league in 2009-2010 to 21st in the league in 2011-2012. While Dwight Howard’s offensive game maintained 20 to 22 ppg, and the Magic stayed in the top 10 in defense every year, they needed another scorer badly. For whatever reason, that second scorer never materialized.

But Dwight Howard continued to ruin his name, image, and reputation by forcing the Magic to make unnecessary changes until it was necessary to trade the cause of the problem. While was only in his mid-20s and people in their 20s rarely see the big picture, that era of the NBA was marked by star players pushing against their front office and forcing their hand. Things may have mostly settled down since, but in the early 2000s, players acted like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and if they didn’t agree with the philosophy of the organization, their targets were the heads of GMs and Head Coaches.

In the case of Dwight Howard, the coach and the GM would be fired, and Howard would be eventually traded.

But we can’t expect fans to acquiesce whenever a star player throws a tantrum or cajoles their way out of town. There will be repercussions. Fans are the lifeblood of a team. Dwight Howard poisoned the waters in Orlando. He sullied his goodwill. For that reason, he doesn’t deserve to have his number retired any time soon.

The Magic have far more fan-friendly options if they want to retire more numbers. Why not Tracy McGrady? Why not Penny Hardaway? Why not Nick Anderson or Darrell Armstrong? Why not Nikola Vučević? Why not Greg Kite or Jeff Turner? Why not the great Geert Hammink?

Maybe one day Dwight Howard will get his number retired by the Orlando Magic. Maybe one day he will be in the team Hall of Fame. But that time shouldn’t come any time soon. The Magic are headed in the right direction and bringing back the specter of Dwight Howard might tarnish their positive vibes. Let him play a few more years for the Mets de Guaynabo in Puerto Rico. He is not needed in Orlando.

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