5:49 PM EDT, October 18, 2011
You've got it all wrong, Dwight.
That's why there was such an overwhelming sense of civic sadness when your comments to Esquire magazine began to leak out earlier this week.
For the first time, it sounded to many of us that you want to leave Orlando more than you want to stay.
But why, Dwight?
Why do you feel the way you do?
Why did you tell Esquire, "There's more you can do in a bigger place?"
Why did you say that in Orlando, "I just don't know what else I can do?"
You've got it all wrong, Dwight.
There's a lot more you can do here; more than you realize.
Let's start with the obvious: You can win a championship for a place that desperately needs a reason to feel good about itself. This city, more than most, has been decimated by the depressingly bad economy. Your mere presence and personality uplifts and elevates the fans here and gives them a reason to hope and cope. This can be your team and your town forever and ever — much more so than L.A. or New York, where you will be just another famous person in a city filled with famous people.
This is a digitally connected world now, Dwight. You can be just as famous here as you can in New York. Look at LeBron, who was the most hyped athlete in the league when he lived in Cleveland of all places. And you have 10 times the personality and charisma he does. Think about it: LeBron is reviled nationally because of how he left Cleveland. You will be revered nationally if you choose to stay in Orlando.
You can be an international icon right here, Dwight. You already are the second-most famous American athlete in China, right behind Kobe. And think of how much bigger you will become when you finally win a championship in a city — Orlando — that is internationally recognized as the No. 1 vacation destination in the world.
You can be the king of social media right here, Dwight. Last I checked, you had 2.3 million Twitter followers, which, coincidentally, is about the population of the entire Orlando metropolitan area. Can I get a retweet, big fella?
You can be one of the league's biggest superstars right here, Dwight. You already are. You were the leading vote-getter in the All-Star game last year. You finished second in the MVP balloting. You've won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards. You do national endorsements for Gatorade, McDonald's, Adidas andT-Mobile.
And you know what else? You can do everything here that you can do in New York and LA. — and you can make more money doing it. The Magic can pay you more than the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks or Nets. And, get this, you get to keep about $2 million a year extra because we have no state income tax. Hey, big guy, we may not spend much money on our public schools here in Florida, but we sure know how to take care of our millionaire professional athletes.
And another thing, Dwight, you are the most dominant player in the league. Other stars need to come play for your team; not the other way around. The Magic, even though they haven't always spent their money wisely, have shown they will spend their money freely. Last year, they had the fourth-highest payroll in all of professional sports. If you stay, they will spend whatever it takes to surround you with a better supporting cast.
And you know what else you can do here in Orlando? You can be different. You can separate yourself from Shaq and LeBron and Carmelo and all of the other transient superstars who have no sense of place or permanence.
You have a communal bond here and an entire city that loves you. If you go to L.A., you'll be going to Kobe's team. If you go to New York, you'll be going to Jeter's town. The fans and media in those cities will rip you apart if you miss a free throw that cost their team a championship. In Orlando, we'd just blame it all on Gilbert.
See what I mean, Dwight?
See why your Esquire comments made fans here so sad?
You told the magazine, "There's a lot more you can do in a bigger city."
There is a lot more you can do in Orlando.
Much more than you can ever achieve elsewhere.
In a bigger city, you will be known, but you'll never be loved.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740-AM.
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