And then you know what happens?
Sad, jilted, lonely, cursed.
This is what Magic fans must feel like today.
Like their team is the new minor-league affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Like their love is not good enough and their city not big enough to keep a superstar happy.
And this hurts even more than Shaq because Dwight was supposed to be a different kind of superstar.
He was the humble kid with the big smile; the fun-loving teenager who came to town and wanted to convert as many NBA players as he could to Christianity.
He was the young man who preached "loyalty before anything" and said he wanted to be in Orlando forever and ever and lead the Magic to multiple championships. He was our Superman, the Man of Real — real values, real character, real principles. He was the kid from Smallville who refused to big-time anybody. Remember the famous words of Homer Simpson: "I'm not normally a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman."
Turns out Superman didn't save us; he quit on us. After nearly 10 years, he gave up on his team and his town.
"What hurts the most is Dwight isn't who we thought he was," says Dennis Salvagio, the famous Magic superfan whose alias is "The Fat Guy." "We thought he was loyal and would stick by us until the end."
The reason it hurts so badly is because everybody did everything possible to make Dwight want to stay. The Magic gambled and drafted him No. 1 eight years ago when all the experts said they should have taken Emeka Okafor. In the ensuing years, the Magic burst through the salary cap and spent tons of money — often foolishly — trying futilely to put the talent around him to win a championship.
And the people here loved him unconditionally. They cheered him loudly and proudly. They built a new arena for him and even nicknamed it "The Dwighthouse." They poured their hearts, souls and disposable income into him.
And all those boys and girls in all those elementary schools wore his jerseys and bought his CDs. I still remember the time I told my daughter Jessica a story about Michael Jordan getting cut from his high-school basketball team and going on to become the greatest basketball player of all time.
"Daddy," Jessica corrected, "Dwight Howard is the greatest basketball player of all time."
The fans started movements such as "Keep Dwight in Blue and White" to persuade him to stay. They started websites such as StayDwight.com. One local band even recorded a song — "Let's Fight for Dwight" — and did a music video to go with it.
"When we hear you're leaving, we don't stop believing
Hey, Magic, let's fight for Dwight!
'Cause we love you, Dwight!"
Now, finally, the fight is over.
The love is gone.
The flame is extinguished.
The night the Dwight went out in Orlando.
That is all.
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