A few years ago, after noticing the abundance of semi-vintage NBA jerseys at various outdoor concerts, an Internet meme was created around various images of youngsters of a certain age (and, usually, skin tone) sporting old Glenn Robinson or Dell Curry jerseys with tongue firmly placed in cheek, as they nodded along to Pitchfork-approved beats. Now, courtesy of Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, we've discovered the irony of ironies, the ironiest T-shirt you're ever going to find. As sold by the Orlando Magic, on the team's website, it's a T-shirt with Dwight Howard's picture emblazoned with the word "LOYALTY," celebrating that one day and a half last March when Dwight decided he wanted to stay a member of the Orlando Magic.
(For just 2012-13, at least. Without signing a contract extension with the team. While coldly declining to discuss the prospects of a contract extension just minutes after telling reporters that he "always believed loyalty is before anything," despite a contract extension acting as the ultimate show of loyalty.)
That is marvelous. Oscar Wilde would be proud.
In case you've forgotten, just a few weeks later former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted to the press that Howard had asked the team to fire him several times in the preceding months. Just a month and a half later, Van Gundy was fired along with Magic GM Otis Smith. A GM that, in his misplaced loyalty, chased down several high-risk options in order to appease his All-Star center.
Here come the caveats.
Otis Smith did not build a good basketball team around Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard is well within his rights to, behind the scenes, ask for a new coach (even if he is severely misguided, because Van Gundy is one of the game's best) or ask for a trade to a team with better prospects than his capped-out, asset-less Orlando Magic. And he's right to leave as a free agent, without signing that extension, in 2013.
Also, it's not as if he's printing the shirts himself. This was the Magic's call, sad though it may be.
Now, the reality.
Howard, after months of working to try and secure a deal to the team of his choice (which was never his choice, considering he had signed a contract to play in Orlando through at least this summer), felt bad about things for a good day and a half, long enough to waffle and pick up the player option on the final year of his contract for 2012-13. He's the one who incessantly brought up the word "loyalty" at the press conference announcing his decision, leaving himself open for all sorts of ridicule as he refused to be loyal to his team by signing the contract extension that had been on the table (and still is) for the last year and a half, or to the coach that helped guide his overachieving team to the NBA Finals in 2009.
You are completely fair in ripping Dwight Howard for every step he's chosen in this miserable process, holding a city and franchise hostage while he attempts to act the good guy, screwing up every step of the way as he attempts to have it both ways.
And you're more than welcome to buy this shirt, finger-snappin' poobah of kool that you are, to wear at Grant Park while taking in Lollapalooza 2025. Twenty-two bucks is a small price to pay for the chortles of a knowing few, as you walk toward the beer tent.