Tobias Harris is the brand-new No. 12 for the Orlando Magic

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By Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

ORLANDO – 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 that Magic fans knew about the second year player from New York.

Harris quickly got his name in headlines 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. Some fans may remember Howard for his abrupt departure during this past offseason.

When Harris choose to wear number 12 for Orlando, the news made its way to nearly every local source in the days following the trade, some before he had even stepped on the court in a Magic uniform.

What gets overlooked is why 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, 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’ 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 actually called me when I was at the airport,” said Harris about the day he learned of Childs’ passing. “And she said ‘Did you know that Morgan passed away?’

“I started breaking down crying,” said 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 friend’s love of the game of basketball to 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.

“That was his number,” said Harris about the number 12 in Orlando. 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.

Now on Tuesday, March 12 Harris and Howard will be side-by-side on the same court when the Magic face off against the Lakers for the first time at the Amway Center since Howard was traded to Los Angeles during the offseason.

The Lakers were Childs’ favorite basketball team, so it seems only fitting that Harris is set to faceoff against Orlando’s former Superman, who now plays for his late childhood best friend’s favorite team. Tuesday’s game may be an emotional one for Harris but as some fans have displayed with their signs during the lastest homestand: “T12 > D12.”