Denton: Howard Shows His Appreciation For Fans

By John Denton
March 18, 2011

ORLANDO – Peering through a chain-link fence as Dwight Howard signed one autograph after another for the roughly 100 kids surrounding him, Parramore’s Oscar Harrison had a message he wanted to convey to the Orlando Magic’s superstar center.

``Hey Dwight,’’ Harrison said, as the Magic center briefly looked up from signing a shirt, ``we really appreciate you being here.’’

Howard, who had battered the Milwaukee Bucks for 31 points and 22 rebounds a night earlier, was at the Parramore Kidz Zone on Thursday to film a commercial for Adidas with more than 300 local basketball players. Along with teaching kids drills and skills to better their basketball games, Howard also stepped behind the camera to snap photos of a ``Game Face’’ promo sponsored by Adidas. For Dwight, who has been extremely active at the Kidz Zone through the years, the event was about interacting with the fans that are there to support him.

``It’s an opportunity for me to show people how much I like and care for their support,’’ said Howard, who was dressed in a chest-hugging Adidas shirt, black shorts and black sneakers. ``These people came here today to support me and support Adidas and it’s a blessing for me to have a community like this behind me.’’

For someone like Harrison, 49, he said the Parramore community should feel fortunate to have someone like Howard spending time with kids and giving them someone to look up to. Decades ago, Harrison used to play basketball at the park before the ``NBA Cares’’ project rebuilt the courts and put in new backboards and rims.

``For this community, to have somebody out here like Dwight Howard, it just means everything to us,’’ Harrison said. ``To have a good, clean-cut guy like Dwight out here gives the kids somebody to look up to. I tell the kids that the rough-neck way of living isn’t good, but they hear it from (Howard) and they listen.’’

Howard played light-hearted games of ``Knock Out’’ with several of the athletes and then the five-time NBA All-Star helped them with their game faces, which were filmed by Adidas’ cameras for a commercial that will 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 them is to just go have fun playing.’’

Jaron Finklea, a sophomore basketball player at Jones High School, certainly had fun playing basketball against the NBA’s best center on Thursday. He said he hoped to use the drills that Howard showed him to move up from the JV team where he averaged 10 points and five assists a game this past season. And someday he wants to follow in Howard’s footsteps – as a NBA star player and a person who gives back to the community.

``We’ve never had a player around here be more dedicated to the people of Parramore than Dwight,’’ said Finklea, 16. ``I aspire to be just like Dwight and be an all-pro and still give back to the people. What Dwight does, he doesn’t have to, but he has a kind heart and it’s great to see how much he cares.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at