By Danny Morales
When Tobias Harris was traded to the Orlando Magic from the Milwaukee Bucks, along with two others players in exchange for J.J. Redick, there wasn’t much Magic fans knew about the second year player from New York.
Harris quickly got his name in headline when it was learned that he would be wearing the number 12 for the Magic. The same number 12 that fans in Orlando watched lead them to five consecutive NBA playoffs, a streak that will end this season.
Dwight Howard, who was sometimes known as D12 within the Amway Center and even the old Amway Arena, wore the number 12 ever since being selected first overall by the Magic in the 2004 NBA Draft but some fans may remember Howard for his abrupt departure during this past offseason.
When Harris choose to wear number 12 for Orlando it made it’s way to to almost every article in the days following the trade, some before he had even stepped on the court in a Magic uniform.
What gets overlooked is, why Tobias Harris wanted to wear the same number as Orlando’s previous superstar. The answer to that question lies deeper than the game of basketball.
Morgan Childs was Harris’ best friend growing up. The two played AAU basketball together in New York until the age of 15, that was when Childs began traveling back and forth between California and New York to visit doctors for a rare blood disease that he had been diagnosed with.
“Extremely rare,” said Harris about the blood disease. “One in a million.”
Harris was at the airport on the way to a UCLA camp with his father Torrel Harris, when Childs passed away at the age of 16. Harris’s mother was the one who told him the news of Morgan’s passing when she called him while he was at the airport.
“My mom she actually called me when I was at the airport,” said Harris about the day he found out of Childs’ passing. “And she said ‘Did you know that Morgan passed away?’”
“I started breaking down crying.” added Harris. “Somebody passing away that young, it was really sad.”
Harris attended Childs’ funeral after his UCLA camp in California, a moment he calls sad but also a turning point in his career.
“Just a bad time for me,” said Harris. “But I think that’s the turning point of my basketball career.”
Childs’ passing was very emotional for Harris and he used his best friends love of the game of basketball motivate him.
“Being so young at that point and knowing how much Morgan loved the game,” said Harris about the turning point. “Knowing how much we both wanted to make the NBA. There was a point in my life when I was like ‘I’m about to do this, I’m about to put in a whole bunch of effort.’ So I know he’s watching over me upstairs.”
Harris now wears number 12 to honor Morgan Childs, he wore the number as a senior in high school at Half Hollow Hills High School in Long Island, NY, and also wore it during his one year at the University of Tennessee.
“That was his number,” said Harris about the number 12. “When I got here the opportunity to get the number was available and I jumped on it just because I knew how much the importance of memories meant to me. I know it used to be Dwight Howard’s number”
He is well aware of who used to wear number 12 in Orlando, but when the Magic told him that it was available, Harris jumped on the opportunity to honor his childhood best friend again after not being able to wear the number in Milwaukee because Luc Mbah A Moute already had it.
Harris and Howard will be side-by-side on the same court on Tuesday, March 12 when the Magic face off against the Lakers for the first time at the Amway Center since Howard was traded to Los Angeles as part of a four-team deal during the offseason.