All season long, Philadelphia 76ers veteran center Dwight Howard established himself as a Philly favorite. Ever since his introductory press conference, Howard brought a championship-winning veteran presence to the Sixers, which is something they've lacked over the years.
In addition to his basketball experience, Howard also brought great energy to the team. Whether it's getting his teammates hyped up during introductions on game night, or pumping up the crowd during opposing teams' free throw attempts to win free Wendy's Frostys, Howard gave this year's Sixers team a different type of feel-good energy.
But on Sunday night, he did something that had some Philly fans scratching their heads and getting riled up. Exactly one week after the Sixers dropped Game 7 at home against the Atlanta Hawks to get eliminated from the playoffs, Howard was spotted courtside at the State Farm Arena watching the Hawks take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
To no surprise, the veteran big man caught backlash on Twitter. While it is a bit of an awkward situation since Howard and the Sixers did just lose to the Hawks a week ago, Howard's decision to attend Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals should teach basketball fans a valuable lesson.
These players live real lives and not everybody in the NBA is in a rivalry with non-teammates when there is no competition going on.
Dwight Howard attending a basketball game during his offseason shouldn't be a big deal -- especially when it's a game taking place in his hometown. Born in Atlanta. Georgia, Howard likely grew up a Hawks fan and still resides in Atlanta when he's not working.
Although the veteran center considered the Hawks matchup to be a personal rivalry for himself heading into the series at the beginning of the month since he was facing his hometown team, Howard made it clear that he has friends on Atlanta's team.
While Howard encouraged some of the Philly fans' chants going at Hawks star Trae Young during the second-round series, the two players shared a laugh over it during the game further proving the point that at the end of the day, most of these players are friends despite the fact they are competitors.
Had Howard expressed disappointment in the Sixers during his time in Philly, his presence at the Hawks game a week after they lost to Atlanta would probably look a lot worse than it does right now. However, Howard showed nothing but love to Philly fans and the Sixers organization throughout the entire season. Also, he went as far as saying he wants to return next year.
Whether that will happen or not is unclear, but Howard attending an Eastern Conference Finals game in his hometown shouldn't be viewed as an indicator that the big man has turned his back on Philly and definitely won't be returning next year.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.