Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Six months ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a lot of people within the Magic fan base that did not want Dwight Howard’s jersey retired. Yes, at that point in time, Dwight had already made known his desire to be traded, with the Brooklyn Nets at the top of his wish list.
But this was before Dwight chose to opt in, then opt out, then opt in again at the March 15 trade deadline when the Orlando Magic needed to know from him whether he was going to waive his early termination option and stay for one more year beyond the 2011-2012 season (backing away from their original stance of wanting to know if he was going to commit long-term) or be forced to trade him.
This was also before Stan Van Gundy, on April 6, spilled the beans and let the public know before the Magic’s regular season game against the New York Knicks (which aired on TNT, heightening already-heightened drama surrounding the team) that Dwight wanted him fired.
In other words, Dwight hadn’t turned nearly every Magic fan against him just yet. Many of them were sympathetic to him wanting to join a better team, in fact.
Fast-forward to today and if asked the question, “would you retire Dwight’s jersey?” a majority of the Magic fan base would answer “no.” That’s because all the goodwill that Dwight built up over the years in Orlando was destroyed in a matter of months because he was indecisive about wanting to stay or leave, all the while undermining Van Gundy. But when stepping back and taking an objective look at Dwight’s career with the Magic, should he be denied the honor of having his jersey retired?
With the help of a jersey retirement formula created by Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge, we can come up with a verdict.
Criterion One: Connection with the Franchise
Ask yourself: If this player was elected to the Hall of Fame, would he enter as a member of this team?
To determine how closely a player is connected with a franchise, one generally assesses 4 conditions:
1. Did the player play his most important years with the team?
2. Did the player play the majority of his career with the team?
3. Was the player drafted by the team?
4. Did the player retire with the team?
I awarded 5 points for players who met all 4 of the above conditions, 4 points for those who met 3 of the conditions and 3 points for those who met 2 of the conditions.
This criteria is tough to grade because Dwight’s career is nowhere close to being over. What we do know is that he was drafted by the Magic (1 point).
Let’s operate under the assumption that Dwight, when his career is over, will have spent the majority of his career with Orlando (1 point). Let’s also assume that Dwight won’t retire with the Magic before his playing days are over (0 points).
Even though Dwight has played some of his most important years with Orlando, it’s safe to say that his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers (assuming he’ll sign a new five-year max contract after the 2012-2013 season) will be an important part of his career. Which means that the most meaningful years of Dwight’s career — his prime — will have been spent nearly equally between the Magic and Lakers (0.5 points).
Verdict: 2.5 points
Criterion Two: Success with the Franchise
Ask yourself, “Can the story of the franchise’s glory days be told without mentioning this player?”
To weigh both the team’s success and the player’s role in that success, I gave 5 points to a star on a championship team, 5 points to a starter on championship team, 5 points to a star on a finalist team, 4 points to a role player on a finalist team and 4 points to a starter on a finalist team.
This one is easy. Dwight was the star, and best player, of Orlando’s 2009 Finals team.
Verdict: 5 points
Criterion Three: Statistical Body of Work
Ask yourself, “How dominant (and for how long) was this player?”
In assigning the points in this category, I took into account: league-leading tallies, franchise/league records, double-doubles, 10+ year careers, and anything else that truly jumps out of the box score/ stat sheet.
This one is also easy. Dwight was one of the most dominant players in the NBA when he was with the Magic — a bonafide top five player for several seasons.
Verdict: 5 points
Criterion Four: Individual Awards
Ask yourself, “What are the standout individual achievements on this player’s resume and how do they compare to other franchise greats?”
Assigning points here was simple: the more individual achievements, the more points earned out of 5. Achievements taken into consideration include: all-star appearances; end of season awards (MVP, All-NBA first team, etc.); franchise records.
Here is the breakdown of Dwight’s major awards and honors while with Orlando: six-time NBA All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year (NBA record), five-time All-NBA first team selection, four-time All-Defensive first team selection, and MVP runner-up in 2011.
Dwight is also the current Magic franchise leader in consecutive games played, minutes played, free-throws made, free-throws attempted, total rebounds, blocked shots, personal fouls, points, rebounds per game, most free-throws made in one game, most free-throws attempted in one game (NBA record), and tied for most points in a playoff game.
Need I say more?
Verdict: 5 points
Criterion Five: The Intangibles
Ask yourself, “Is the player a credit to the organization, the city and the league?” […]
In assigning points, I included achievements such as being a: founding member; local legend; fan favorites; playoff hero; active [Orlando] community member; a coach or front office member for the [Magic] or in the NBA as a whole.
While this category is certainly subjective, it is only 20 percent of the overall picture so haggling over a point up or down should not make or break a candidate’s application.
“Dwightmare” aside, Dwight was a local legend, fan favorite, playoff hero, active community member, and more (5 points) with the Magic. He should be rightfully penalized for how he left (-1 point) but as Nate Drexler wrote on Tuesday, “the man poured it out for Orlando on and off the court for nearly the entirety of his tenure.”
Verdict: 4 points
21.5 points (out of a total 25 possible points)