ARLINGTON — It's hard to miss Houston Rockets star Dwight Howard and the 6-foot-11 NBA force certainly hasn't escaped notice at the Final Four. Especially when he's sitting next to 6-foot-9 Rockets forward Chandler Parsons in the crowd (tough luck for the prime ticket holders sitting behind this duo).
Parsons — a proud Florida Gator who was never able to make it to the Final Four as a college basketball player — is still beloved in Gainesville.
The feeling doesn't extend to his big buddy though. In fact, the Florida student section made it clear the entire state still has something of an issue with Dwight Howard. Many of the college kids jeered when Howard sauntered by — with one yelling out, "Dwight, you never should have left Orlando!"
Howard just kept on walking. The big man started his career with the Orlando Magic of course, before forcing his way out and getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on the way to eventually signing that free agent contract with the Rockets last summer.
Many of the college kids jeered when Dwight Howard sauntered by.
With Florida fans in one big section and Dallas Mavericks fans upset that Howard spurned their team and chose Houston instead in free agency all around AT&T Stadium, this North Texas Final Four hardly initially oozed with friendliness toward Parsons' bud.
But Howard has a way of winning people over. And his big-kid enthusiasm eventually endeared himself to the Florida student section. By midway through the second half, Howard was standing in the section and cheering with the Florida students. He even broke into the Gator arm chomp at one point.
It all made for a memorable moment that got shown on the famously gigantic Jerry World, prompting laughs and cheers from the crowd.
Howard definitely had it better than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the champion of this stadium ode to excess. Shown on the big screen, kicking back in his suite, Jones found himself roundly booed. And he's not winning these fans over with a Gator Chomp.
Parsons organized the Final Four trip, setting up the charted jet that brought the Rockets here Saturday, to cheer on his Gators. With the Rockets having officially clinched a playoff berth — and more importantly, having finally beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder in Houston on Friday night — the trip also could have marked something of a celebration.
UConn's stunning upset of overall No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed Florida didn't do much for Parsons mood, however.
Not that Parsons and Howard can stay too long in Dallas anyway. They need to jet back to Houston to be at the Toyota Center in plenty of time for the pregame work scheduled before Sunday night's home game against the Denver Nuggets.