Jameer Nelson Reveals How Dwight Howard Leaving the Magic was a ‘Sad Ending’

A lot of NBA players have stood out this season, but Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers has a unique story. During his 16-year NBA career, Howard has played for six different teams. He is an eight-time NBA All-Star and five-time rebounding leader, recently surpassing Shaquille O’Neal for 14th place on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, along the way, he has made some enemies and angered fans. Howard, wearing a Lakers jersey, recently took the court at the Amway Center in Orlando as fans booed him. It seems seven years is not long enough for fans to forget the way he left their city.

A look at Dwight Howard’s NBA career

In 2004, at the ripe age of 19, the Orlando Magic made Dwight Howard the first overall draft pick. He spent eight seasons there, growing into a powerhouse center. In 2012, Howard made a controversial move to the Los Angeles Lakers. He only spent one year there before the Lakers traded him to the Houston Rockets. 

From there, Howard jumped around, playing for Atlanta, Charlotte, and then Washington. At 33 years od, it looked like his basketball days were ending. He only played in nine games with the Washington Wizards before going back to the Lakers for the 2019-20 season. That was a surprising move considering Howard left the team on bad terms in 2013 when he refused to play for Coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Dwight Howard’s time with Orlando was magic, until…

During his time with the Orlando Magic, Howard was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year every year from 2009-2011. He broke several records along the way, most impressively being the first rookie player to start in 82 games directly out of high school. 

For the next eight years, under Howard’s leadership, the Magic won numerous division titles and were a perennial playoff team. During the 2011-12 regular season, Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game free-throw record with 39 attempts. On January 24, 2012, Howard scored 45 points and 23 rebounds, becoming the Orlando Magic’s all-time scoring leader with 11,435 points.

…Howard requests a trade out of town 

According to ESPN, Howard grew frustrated with team management and requested to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets in June of 2012. After meeting with general manager Rob Hennigan, Howard signed an “opt-in” clause for the final year on his 2012-13 contract with the Orlando Magic. After making that decision, Howard felt blackmailed and took his complaint to the NBA Players Association. His request to the union to take legal action angered many Orlando fans. 

As fate would have it, Howard underwent back surgery for a herniated disk missing the Playoffs and ending his career with the Orlando Magic. Fans speculated that he used the surgery as an excuse to not have to play for coach Stan Van Gundy again, something Howard vehemently denies. 

Jameer Nelson and the “sad ending” of Howard’s time in Orlando

Years later, Jameer Nelson reveals Dwight Howard's ugly exit from Orlando was like the end of an amazing yet tragically sad movie.
Dwight Howard (left) and Jameer Nelson (right). | Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic drafted Jameer Nelson in 2004. He and Dwight Howard played together throughout Howard’s entire career with the Magic. HoopsHype recently caught up with Nelson for a podcast interview where he discussed Howard’s drama-filled departure from the team back in 2012.

Nelson claims there was a lot of tension among players during that time. They constantly had to listen to Howard complain about wanting to leave the Magic. Nelson said the team continued to work hard and play through it, but it took a lot out of everyone:

“If you want to request a trade, request it quietly. Then, things won’t trickle down to your coach, your teammates, and your fans.” He continued by saying Howard’s actions had an effect on everyone and, “Nobody was having any fun anymore. It was almost like the ending to a great movie, and it was a sad ending.”

The Dwight Howard news cycle was a lot to bear for his teammates, yet the end of the saga was still emotional, at least for Jameer Nelson.

Howard’s feelings toward Orlando Magic fans

In an interview with the LA Times, Howard said he “was super bitter at a lot of things that transpired behind closed doors that none of the Magic fans or people really know about.” He claims that he never talked bad about the team and continued by saying, “I did have a lot of bitterness in my heart toward the organization and even the fans of how they treated me when I came back.” 

Howard told the LA Times that he has let go of the past, and it has made him a better person. He says it’s over with, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. He is tired of talking about his departure from the Magic and says there is “no need to hate somebody for leaving a basketball team.”

A lot of the animosity seems to have dissipated over the years. Maybe the movie will have a happy ending after all.