Many of you may not have any idea what is significant about the 15th March at all. In fact, most people I know will not bat the slightest eyelid at the date. However for the people of Orlando the situation could not be more different.
Thursday 15th March is the trade deadline day in the NBA and Orlando Magic fans are currently sweating on the future of their star player, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, six-time All Star and the “best big man in the league,” Dwight Howard.
Now I know many of you will not be avid NBA followers, so I will give you a brief summary of what has happened over the past year to bring us to this day. Even before a lockout-shortened season finally kicked off on Christmas Day of 2011, Dwight Howard, or “D12″ as he is affectionately known to his fans, had submitted a trade request to the team in his final contracted year to the Magic, citing his reason as believing the organisation could not build a team around him capable enough to challenge for an NBA Championship.
Thus began a season of incessant trade rumours, linking Howard with many high profile teams, but with an added catch. Howard had compiled a list of teams he would consider signing a contract extension with and indicated that if traded to a team other than his preferred destinations, he would refuse to sign, allowing him to become a free agent in the summer of 2012 and sign with whichever team he pleased.
This saga has continued all season, despite repeated pleas for Howard to stay from the fans, from the team’s owners and from the general manager. However, some of the twists in the story in recent days have been nothing short of remarkable. Sources reported the extraordinary step of offering D12 the ability to decide whether the Magic’s General Manager, Otis Smith and his current coach, Stan Van Gundy, should keep their jobs beyond the end of the season should he re-sign.
Whilst Howard is indeed a bona fide superstar and franchise player, the idea of handing Howard the keys to the Magic Kingdom is an incredible step which effectively places the player on the pedestal of being bigger than the franchise. Contrast this to the way in which Peyton Manning’s legendary NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts has been coldly and calculatingly disposed of in order to protect the franchise and underline that no player is bigger than their organisation and such a decision seems even larger.
Even imagining a similar scenario arising in football in Europe borders on ludicrous. Could you ever imagine Real Madrid handing Cristiano Ronaldo the power to decide whether Mourinho survives to fight another day? It is perhaps an unfair comparison given Mourinho’s relentless success, perhaps a more worthy comparison might be found in the skirmishes of Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini. Tevez was arguably the face of Manchester City, a ferocious leader, but found himself dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly after one too many public strop with Mancini, Manchester, the weather, the colour of his carpet, well you get the idea…
As things stand, it is being reported Howard has indicated he will sign a player option for an extra year at the Magic. Until the trade deadline is reached and the dust settles however, one thing is clear: The Orlando Magic have reached into dangerous territory in an era already dominated by player power. Even if Howard does indeed sign, this time next year the Magic Kingdom may have finally fallen out of the clouds, weighed down by a superstar who believes he can bigger than his entire organisation.