Long after Dwight Howard was scheduled to leave the Parramore Kidz Zone Thursday afternoon, there stood the Orlando Magic superstar center still signing autographs for the endless string of children and fawning adults who hung on his every word.
More than 300 local athletes were on hand to participate in the Adidas “Game Face Project” and it seemed like a couple of hundred or more showed up just to be near the five-time NBA All-Star center. Dwight played “Knock Out” with some of the players, taught drills and worked on skills and then just simply talked and spent time with some of the kids.
Dwight had just returned from a nine-day, five-game roadtrip with the Orlando Magic earlier Thursday morning, but he was in no rush to leave and instead wanted to accommodate those who he feels supports him through the highs and lows of a long season. He signed shoes tossed over a fence, autographed shirts, hats and cards and posed for hundreds of cell phone pictures and cameras – all with a big smile.
“Sometimes people think we as athletes forget about the community and the people who support us and can’t always come to all of the games,” Dwight said. “But I just try to show them how much I really care about their support. It means so much to me, so I want to give it back to them.”
Dwight was as playful as ever on Thursday, getting behind the camera to snap dozens of photos of kids showing off their game faces as part of a promotion for Adidas. Some of the photos of the kids from the Parramore Kidz Zone could appear in a commercial that is slated to appear during the MTV Music Awards in the summer.
“I found a lot of cool game faces and the kids were just having fun out there,” Howard said. “That was the big thing. My message to the kids was to just go have fun playing.”
Jamal Kincade, one of the athletes participating in Thursday’s photo shoot and on-court drills, certainly had fun interacting with the Magic’s superstar center. He said it was a dream come true meeting Dwight and he planned to prominently display the T-shirt that he had signed by his favorite player. He said he was inspired by Dwight’s words, and would put them to use on the basketball court.
“Dwight joked around with us and told us no matter how a game was going to keep our heads up and have fun,” Jamal said. “It’s so cool for him to come out and spend time with us and show us how he got to the NBA. He’s a great guy and I hope to be just like him someday.”