It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s NBA free agent Dwight Howard flying out of Orlando, Fla. before the trade deadline. Since the eventual start of shortened NBA season, the Orlando Magic center has been expressing a desire to explore his options with other teams. The team’s General Manager Otis Smith has given Howard permission to discuss a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets and Los Angles Lakers but as of press time no deals have been struck. Howard has until the NBA trade deadline of March 15, or until after the season, to make a decision.
With this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend being held in Orlando, Howard find himself in an even brighter spotlight to showcase his talents as his jersey change seems inevitable. While that is sure to mean a boost in his salary and brand awareness, the same might not bode for his current team. Orlando is a one-sport town, with Howard as its only franchise player. With an impact off the court just as big as his impact on the court, what will happen to Orlando’s economy if Superman flies the coop?
According to ESPN, Howard’s arrival in 2004 sparked an 18.2 percent increase in game attendance for the Magic. The Orlando Business Journal also wrote, “If a fan purchases a meal and a souvenir in the downtown area before or after a game, Howard’s economic impact could exceed $2.2 million during an 82-game basketball season.” Proof of the city of Orlando’s belief in their franchise player was the 2010 completion of the Amway Center, a $480 million, 18,800-seat arena, which Howard has reigned in for just one full season. Should the all-star center skip town and the team be left with no marquee players the arena, two-thirds of which was funded by the public, could wind up being a premature investment.
“A loss of the big man, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, would mean a big loss in our Central Florida economy,” Florida State Representative Dwayne Taylor said in a tribute to Howard. “Dwight has been an active participant in the community so, stay, Dwight, stay!”