Walking through the entryway of a cruise ship dining room, I was interrupted by the face of Juwan Howard.
He leapt from his seat toward me, his face lighting up, as if I were the celebrity and he were the commoner. Pointing to my chest, his eyes were fixed on my Wizards T-shirt, the same blue and gold one I’ve had since the mid 90s.
Fandom warmed my heart, and I asked Juwan what he thought about the Marcin Gortat trade. I was about to recall the time I swear I saw him and CWebb wave at me as they pulled a black SUV into the then-MCI Center.
And then it began to dawn on me. Juwan was the sage benchwarmer for the Miami Heat during their last few Finals runs. And that was following a journeyman’s resume of League locales.
His days as a Wizard (and Bullet) were a distant memory, and I remembered they left an unpleasant taste. I was dreaming.
As I opened my eyes, the shame of the NBA’s first $100 million dollar contract washed over me. The franchise disastrously chose Juwan over both CWebb and Rasheed Wallace, trading the latter pair away. They handed him, at the time, the richest contract in league history.
But the bitter memory was tempered by hope for the new era. Expectations for a few young, on-the-cusp talents to take the next step toward Eastern Conference playoff contention. With a shot in the arm from Dwight Howard’s old backup, delivered to us from a basketball desert.