Tag Archives: Penny Hardaway

Is Penny Hardaway a Hall of Famer?

Penny Hardaway is one of the most iconic NBA players on and off the court in the last 20 years, and should be in the Hall of Fame.

This weekend eleven basketball legends will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Iconic names like Tracy McGrady, Rebecca Lobo and George McGinnis to name a few, will take their rightful place in the hallow halls of Basketball Heaven. One name that isn’t in those halls, that should be, is Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Hardaway was a unique talent. While he played fourteen seasons in the NBA, he’s most known for the six years he spent in central Florida. From 1994-2000, the 6 foot 7 inch point guard for the Orlando Magic displayed an ability to score in an explosive manner like Mike, while also being able to set up his teammates like Magic. His was a rare talent that could do it all, years before the LeBron James’, Kevin Durant’s, Giannis Antetokumpo’s of today.

He reached icon status off the court as well with his alter ego Lil’ Penny and his Air Penny signature shoe line with Nike.

But, injuries robbed him of his prime and longevity at being an all-time great. But make no mistake, there was greatness.

Let’s look at the resume: Four-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and 1993-1994 All-Rookie Team selection. 1996 Gold medalist. And when Shaq left the “City Beautiful” for the “City of Angels”, Penny kept carrying the Magic to the playoffs when everyone else thought they would fold.

In his six seasons with the Magic, he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assist, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. When he retired he was third on the Magic career list in assists (2,343)—now fourth, third in steals (718), and fourth in points (7,018)—now seventh.

For those of you who closely look at the advanced numbers, with Orlando, Penny had a PER of 20.2, a true shooting percentage of 56%, grabbed 7.3 rebounds on a 23.9% usage rate.

He also delivered when it counted most, in the playoffs.

In eight playoffs trips with Orlando, Phoenix and the New York Knicks, Hardaway averaged 20.4 points per game, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals in sixty-four games.

But don’t discount the college career, because that’s also valued when a player is considered for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. So many forget that it’s not just a professional basketball Hall of Fame.

Hardaway was a consensus All-American in 1993, twice awarded the Great Midwest Conference Player of the year (Conference USA) and has his number 25 jersey retired by the University of Memphis State. He did that before they became a national power and dropped the “State” from their name.

Penny’s impact on the Magic’s history is very similar to his former running mate Shaq. Together they led the Magic to their first ever playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). He also drew his share of the national spotlight with his Nike commercials starring Chris Rock as “Lil’ Penny”, Hardaway’s alter ego to promote his signature shoes which are still widely popular and sought after decades after their initial retail release.

If Penny were to get inducted, he would be the first Magic player to go in solely on their exploits in the black and royal blue pinstriped jersey.

Shaq is there for his contributions as a Los Angeles Laker. 2017 inductee Tracy McGrady will be going in mostly for his time as a Houston Rocket. And, if Grant Hill gets in—which he deserves to be—it will be for a combination of his collegiate career at Duke and the six years with the Detroit Pistons where he was LeBron before LeBron.

Longevity during your peak shouldn’t be the end all be all when determining if a player is HOF worthy. Penny’s time with the Magic alone should be enough to get him a coveted orange blazer. Not to be rude, but if Yao Ming can get inducted, you’re going to tell me PH1 isn’t a Hall of Famer? I’m not buying it.

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City Game: Orlando (Central Florida)

Sunshine, theme parks, beaches and great shopping aren’t the only thing Orlando has to offer. There’s a thriving hoop scene here as well. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

When you mention Orlando Florida, most people’s first thoughts go to Disney World, Universal Studios, orange groves, tropical weather with hurricanes and pop-up showers, nearby sandy beaches, great restaurants and shopping.

Sports wise, you think mostly football or spring training baseball. But in the past two and half decades, roundball has also become synonymous with central Florida. Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter are no longer the biggest attractions from the area.

NBA LIVE: 

The Association has been apart of the “City Beautiful” community since 1989. As mentioned in the ESPN 30 for 30 “This Magic Moment,” it was thought to be a terrible idea to place an expansion franchise in Orlando, and Miami as well, because football was king in the “Sunshine State.” Boy were they wrong. The NBA has flourished in central Florida, even through the lean years the Magic franchise had in the beginning and in recent seasons.

It only took three seasons for Magic basketball to receive the National and World spotlights. In February of 1992, former commissioner David Stern smartly brought the All-Star weekend to Orlando, as he did with the other expansion franchises (Miami Heat in 1990, Charlotte Hornets in 1991) in previous years. That weekend would ironically become a celebration of Magic, as in Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who was playing in the game despite having retired before the season began due to finding out he had contracted the HIV virus.

In the spring of that same year the Magic won possibly the biggest draft lottery in league history, giving them the right to select the highly coveted Shaquille O’Neal with the first overall pick. The franchise and central Florida community would never be the same.

Shaq put the world spotlight on Orlando basketball. Photo Credit: NBA

Shaq put the world spotlight on Orlando basketball. Photo Credit: NBA

Shaq “Diesel” turned the small market city into more than a tourist destination. Die hard and casual sports fans all over world wanted to witness the 7 foot 1 dominating center with the millionwatt smile, exuberant charm and boyish personality. Orlando Magic jersey’s with the number 32 were worn from central Florida to the Far East of the globe.

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Penny with Shaq was the new Magic & Kareem. Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Shaq would lead the Magic to a .500 record (41-41), but they missed the playoffs by one game. It was a blessing in disguise as they won the 1993 draft lottery, a move that allowed them to draft the top prospect in that class, Michigan’s Chris Webber, who they immediately traded for the rights to Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway creating a dynamic duo with O’Neal that would only bring more wins and eye balls to the 407. To use Shaq’s words, they were “Shaq and Kobe before Shaq and Kobe.”

With Shaq and Penny at the forefront, the Magic became the NBA’s hot ticket and were showcased on national television a plenty. From 1993-1996, the Magic won 67.8% (167-79) of their games, two division titles, and the Eastern Conference title in 1995.

The Magic would fade away for a while when Shaq headed West to the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, and Penny was traded to the Phoenix Suns after growing frustrated with injuries, coaches and losing. The rest of that dynamic team was broken up via trades and retirement.

There was a revival of sorts in the early 2000’s when Tracy McGrady, a native of nearby by Auburndale in Polk County, joined perennial All-Star Grant Hill as free agent’s in the Magic’s Kingdom. While the franchise made it to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons (2001-2003), they would never be able to duplicate the success of the original Orlando dynamic duo due to Hill’s chronic and nearly fatal injuries.

Dwight Howard revived the Magic in Orlando. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson

Dwight Howard revived the Magic in Orlando. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson

In 2004, Orlando would once again win the draft lottery and select Dwight Howard, the number one high school prospect in the country, first overall, but they also traded away McGrady to the Houston Rockets in an attempt to remake the squad around Dwight.

Howard would grow into being the big man Magic fans lost when Shaq bolted for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Howard reignited the national and global spotlight that had been dimmed in the days post Shaq and Penny. D-12 became an All-NBA performer, a leading vote getter in the All-Star game, while also winning the 2008 Slam Dunk contest and earning three Defensive POY awards. His individual success also led to major team success as he, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, and Rashard Lewis under Stan Van Gundy’s leadership won three Southeast division titles from 2007-2011, and the Eastern Conference title in 2009.

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The six-year old Amway Center is the centerpiece of Orlando. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

The success even led to the building of the Amway Center (est. 2010), a state-of-the-art facility that is second to none in any league.

But history repeated itself as Howard, like Shaq, ended up with the Lakers after forcing his way out of the 407 via trade after a couple of disgruntled seasons.

So here the franchise is five years later, still in rebuilding mode like they were when Shaq left in ’96. But this time is different. The Magic are in the midst of the worse five-year period in team history.

BMOC (Big men on Campus):

Central Florida University, better known as UCF, is the main institution of higher learning in the area. In the last decade and a half they have produced several productive NFL players like wide receiver Brandon Marshall, cornerback Asante Samuel and quarterback Daunte Culpepper who were all All-Pro’s at some point in their careers. The UCF Knights hoops squad can’t say the same. It doesn’t have an extensive tradition as a team, but they’ve had a few notables come through the program.

The CFE Arena on the campus of UCF is only 10 years old and has a raucous atmosphere. Photo Credit: UCFKnights.com

The CFE Arena on the campus of UCF is only ten years old and has a raucous atmosphere. Photo Credit: UCFKnights.com

Marcus Jordan, the son of Michael Jordan, is the most recent big name that signed to play for the Knights (2009-2012), his older brother Jeffrey transferred from Illinois to play with him. Marcus made the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2009 and Second-Team All-Conference in 2011. If it weren’t for Marcus and the controversy surrounding him wearing Air Jordan’s instead of Adidas, who had a sponsorship deal with the school, they’d probably wouldn’t have the lucrative deal they now have with Nike after Adidas decided to drop the athletic program.

Four players from the university have played in the NBA.  Joey and Stephen Graham, Jermaine Taylor in the 2000s, Mark Jones and Stan Kimbrough in the early 1990s.

The biggest name in the program right now is new head coach Johnny Dawkins. Dawkins learned at the feet of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as an assistant and associate head coach for ten seasons after his 9-seasons playing in the Association.

Even though the University of Florida is one hour and forty-one minutes (110.7 miles) away in Gainesville, the Gators are the favored program in central Florida as it is home to a huge group of Gator Alumns. It’s also a major pipeline for top talent. Several local high school prep stars have made their way north on the Florida Turnpike to I-75 to play at the O’Connell Center for legendary coach Billy Donovan, like Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes.

Donovan successfully turned a dominant football school into a basketball powerhouse as well. From 1996-2015 he led them to two National Championships (2006,2007), four Final Four appearances (2000, 2006, 2007, 2014), eight Elite 8 appearances, eight Sweet 16 births, four SEC Tournament Championships (2005, 2006, 2007, 2014) and six SEC regular season Championships (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014).

Currently nine players are on NBA rosters that played for Donovan, including Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah who in the 2007 draft became the first trio from one school to be drafted in the first ten picks.

PREP GAME:

Nestled 23 miles west of Orlando in the shadows of downtown is the most prominent prep school program in America. Montverde Academy won three consecutive National Championships (2012-2015) and has produced three top two NBA draft picks in three of the last four NBA Drafts (Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell & Joel Embiid). Head Coach Kevin Boyle also coached St. Patrick’s High in New Jersey where he coached Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to name a few.

Equally as dominant, but on the state level in recent years, is Winter Park High School. The Wildcats have won three State titles since 2010. L.A. Clippers guard Austin Rivers led the school to back to back titles in 2010 & 2011 while winning Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2011). His younger brother Spencer was a key member of the team that won the title in 2014.

Dr. Phillips High Lady Panthers have won three FHSAA Championships in this decade (2011, 2012, 2013). The Boys’ team has produced several standouts. Most notably former NBA forward Damien Wilkins and guard Shane Larkin.

A couple of other schools in the area have had success producing top talent as well. Amare Stoudermire graduated from Cyprus Creek High in 2002 and jumped from there to the NBA where he won Rookie of the Year and was selected to six All-Star games in his 15-year career.

2004 McDonald’s All-American Darius Washington Junior graduated from Edgewater High and made the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 before having a successful career overseas. Another former Edgewater Eagle, Marquis Daniels played 10 seasons in the NBA, most notably with the Dallas Mavericks where he was selected to the 2004 All-NBA Rookie 2nd team.

Evans High School produced Darryl Dawkins and Chucky Atkins. Atkins played eleven seasons in the NBA for nine teams. Dawkins is one of the first players to go from high school to the NBA back in 1975. “Chocolate Thunder” was known for his colorful, playful attitude and ferocious dunks. He played in three NBA Finals.

Current Memphis Grizzles Vince Carter (Daytona Mainland High) and Chandler Parsons (Lake Howell) also call the Orlando area home.

On the AAU level, Orlando’s “Each 1 Teach 1″ squad has become one of the premier program’s in the country in recent years. Some of their well known alumns are Amare Stoudemire, Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Rivers, Brandon Knight, NCAA Champion Allan Grayson (Duke), Daniel Giddens (Ohio State, 2015-2016), Antonio Blakeney (LSU), and 7’5” Tacko Fall (UCF)

RUNS:

Orlando isn’t a big city, but it’s the sum of its parts in the neighboring towns and cities that provide top quality runs. it’s too hot to hoop on concrete, and with the tropical storm season’s pop-up showers, it’s hard to get a full game in without an interruption from Mother Nature. So most runs will likely be indoors.

Despite this amazing scene which exemplifies why Orlando is called the “City Beautiful”, it’s hard to play ball outside with the hot, humid temperatures and pop-up showers. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

The hot spot within the city limits of Orlando is the Downtown Rec Center which was the practice facility for the Magic from 1989-1998. The court still host the Orlando Pro-Am in the summer complete with Magic logos and official NBA three point line. This is where many of you have seen the YouTube highlights of 41-year old Jason “White Chocolate” Williams still busting ankles and serving up dimes. Also centrally located in the city is Barnett Park/Gym. It fits your needs whether you want to go inside or outside.

The Oviedo Rec Center in East Orlando about 8 miles from the UCF’s campus also boast one of the most competitive men’s leagues in the area with rosters that have overseas pros and current college players, most of whom also get it in at open gyms.

North of Orlando in Sanford at the Boys and Girls club you’ll run into more current and former college players working on their games.

But if you must get some run outside and who could blame you, if you come to Florida looking to spend more time in the sun, you can stick around Sanford and hoop on one of the two courts at Fort Mellon Park. The lights stay on fairly late, so you can also cool off and gets some run when the sun goes down. In nearby Casselberry/Winter Park, where Chandler Parsons is from, you can head to Red Bug Lake Park. Here you’ll find several of the top high school players from the area. Also in the Baldwin Park Neighborhood in Winter Park, you can hit up Blue Jacket Park.

HOW WE DO:

Inside the six-year old Amway Center’s Orlando Basketball Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

Speed, speed, speed. Most of the ballers in the area are dual sport athletes, and that other sport is most likely football. So these cats like to push the tempo at every opportunity. You have former defensive backs playing the guard spots using their ball hawking instincts from their secondary days to lock you up on D and their top line speed to beat you to the cup when they’re on O. The wings are built like linebackers and tall wide receivers running the lane, and center spots are manned by lineman-sized cats who want to bang in the post like it’s fourth and one even if they’re not your traditional 6’7″-6’10” bigs.

Bring your water, Gatorade or whatever your drink of choice is to replenish, because hoop games turn into track meets in the blink of an eye.

The Orlando Magic are still the main attraction in town despite a lack of success on the court. Photo Credit: Kavis Peak

The Best NBA Teams TO NOT Win a Title

 

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Shaq and Penny were supposed to be the 1990’s version of Kareem and Magic.

The 1994-1996 Orlando Magic were one of most popular teams in NBA history in the last 35 years. As they are immortalized in the most recent ESPN 30 for 30, which was an excellent time capsule of my favorite team from my childhood.

It’s hard to believe this team led by Shaq and Penny didn’t stick together and win several Larry O’Brien trophies. As Shaq said in the film, they were Shaq and Kobe, before Shaq and Kobe. At the time in the mid-90s, they were often affectionately called the new version of Magic and Kareem.

IMG_3879As I’m watching the film, I can’t help but think of other great teams that didn’t win a title. In addition to the Magic of the 90’s, here are my best teams of the last 35 NBA seasons to not win a title.

The 1992-1995 Charles Barkley led Phoenix Suns. In 1992-1993, his first season in the desert, “Sir Charles”, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle won a league high 62 games and Barkley took home league MVP over Michael Jordan. The Suns lost in a tough 6-game series to the Chicago Bulls—a theme that will be repeated a couple times on this list—in the NBA Finals that included an epic three-overtime game 3 victory. That would be the closest this group would come to a championship.

In 1993-94 and 1994-95, after winning 56 and 59 games respectively, the Suns would lose in the Western Conference Semifinals to eventual Champions the Houston Rockets and NBA MVP Hakeem Olajuwon, after leading both series 3-1.

The 1996-1999 Stockton to Malone Utah Jazz made back-to-back NBA Finals in 97 and 98 before losing to…. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 6-games. Those teams won 64 and 62 games, respectively. Like Barkley in 1993, Malone took home the NBA MVP over Jordan in 1997, a loss MJ took personal since he had just led the Bulls to a 69-13 regular season. With Jordan retired, the Jazz were the overwhelming favorites to win the championship in the 1999 Lockout Shortened season following their two Finals losses. Utah won 37 of 50 games that season, but went out in the Western Conference Semifinals 2-4 to a Portland Trailblazers team that lost to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

The 1985-86 twin towers of Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon led Houston Rockets. No one can blame this team for losing in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics in 6-games (2-4). The original Celtics Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish are arguably one of the greatest teams of all-time. The hold the record for home wins in a season at 40-1, and won a league high 67 wins that year.

The Rockets won 51-games this season and knocked off the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s in 5-games (4-1).

Following the 85-86 season, Houston would take several steps back. In 86-87, they won 42 games and lost in the Western Conference Semifinals 2-4 to the lowered seeded Seattle Supersonics, followed by four consecutive 1st round series losses. Ralph Sampson’s promising career was derailed by injuries, and “The Dream” had to change his name to Hakeem to get his two rings (’94 & ’95) and 1994 NBA MVP. I’m joking.

For you young fans, the father of rising Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Andrew Wiggins, Mitchell, was a key reserve on this team.

The 1993-1994 Shawn Kemp-Gary Payton led Seattle Supersonics won a league best 63 games, and were primed to take over the title left by Michael Jordan’s first retirement to play baseball. Instead, the Sonics became the first number one seed to lose to an eighth seed in the playoffs 2-3 back when the first round was a best of five series.

The Sonics would bounce back and finally make the NBA Finals in 1996, but ran into a rejuvenated Jordan and the 72-10 Bulls. After going down 3-0, Seattle rallied back to lose in 6-games. They followed their Finals appearance with back-to-back Western Conference Semifinals loses after winning 57 and 61 games respectively, even after trading Shawn Kemp away to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1997 offseason. They would miss the playoffs in the 1999 season, and the closest they’ve come to a title since, was the 2011-2012 Oklahoma City Thunder who lost to the Miami Heat 1-4.

The 1990’s Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks’ chances began and ended with the start, and emergence of two of the greatest dynasties the Association has ever seen. Like a few others on this list, that guy Michael Jordan and his Bulls—told you there was a theme—curtailed any chances of them winning a title by beating them in 4 grueling, physical series in the decade (’91 1st. round 0-3, ’92 Semifinals 3-4, ’93 Conference Finals 3-4, ’96 Semifinals 1-4).

When 23 in red and black retired in 1993, many assumed Ewing would lead them to New York’s first title since 1973. While they finally made it to the Finals, they would go on to lose to Olajuwon’s Rockets in seven games (3-4) for their first of two ‘chips.

Then MJ returned, and knocked them out again. In 1999 during the Lockout shortened season, with an injured Ewing sitting out, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson and Alan Houston led Knicks became the first ever 8th seed to make the Finals where they ran into Tim Duncan and David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs and lost 1-4. New York hasn’t made it past the Conference Semifinals since ’12-13.

The Jason Kidd led New Jersey Nets of the early 2000s. Kidd came over from Phoenix in a 2001 offseason trade for Stephon Marbury and immediately transformed the lowly Nets from a 26 win lottery bound team into title contenders. New Jersey boosted their win total to 52 games and took home the Atlantic Division title. But like their tri-state area companion Knicks, they ran into two dynasties.

Their first Finals appearance was a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Shaq-Kobe Los Angeles Lakers on their way to their third consecutive championship. The following season, the Nets made it back to the Finals after winning 49 games in the regular season, but ran into Tim Duncan, David Robinson and the Spurs. San Antonio beat the Nets in 6-games (2-4) on their way to their 2nd Championship, they would go on to win 5 total. The Nets returned to the Conference Semifinals where they faced a Detroit Pistons team they knocked off twice on their way to Eastern Conference titles. The Piston went on to win the championship that season, the Nets haven’t made past the conference semifinals since.

The 2009 LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. LBJ miraculously led the 2007 Cavs to the NBA Finals after beating a Detroit Pistons team that had appeared in seven consecutive Eastern Conference finals, winning a title, and 2 Eastern Conference Championships along the way.

The ’09 Cavaliers won a league high 66 games, LeBron won the first of his four NBA MVP’s in a landslide, and appeared headed towards a highly anticipated matchup between James and Kobe Bryant in the Finals. Cleveland swept the first two rounds of the playoffs, But the Orlando Magic led by Dwight Howard, fresh off their 7-game series victory over the Kevin Garnett-less defending Champion Boston Celtics, dominated Cleveland and won the series in 6-games (2-4). The following season the Cavs won 61 games and LeBron another MVP, but they lost in the conference semifinals to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics.

In the offseason following that loss, James made his “Decision” to go to South Beach and the Cavs suffered through four losing seasons where they won as little as 19 games and as many as 33, before James returned and took them back to the Finals in his first season back in “The Land”, finishing with a 6-game series loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Magic Need to Start Hanging Banners

Look into the rafters of the beautiful almost 5-year-old Amway Center and you’ll see beautiful steel beams and only handful of banners celebrating a couple of Eastern Conference championships (1995, 2009) a five Division Championships, a few Orlando Predators Arena Football Championships and a jersey number six retired for the Magic fans. 

It’s time for them to hang more and I’m not just insinuating the kind celebrating team achievements, but the individuals who’ve made this franchise relevant. Central Florida has a decent hoops history and as the Hall of Fame in the concourse of the Amway Center displays, it is one to be proud of, but that can only be seen when you visit the arena. 

Large retired numbers on banners hanging from the rafters can be seen on camera when a videographer shooting the game for broadcast gets a shot of them when returning to the game from a commercial break or during other stoppages of play. Wouldn’t the Magic organization want the rest of the NBA fans base catching a game on League Pass to see such a display? I’ll answer for them, yes.

While there is only one player in the Magic’s history that is a sure-fire Hall of Famer—more on him later—there are some others who are very significant to Orlando basketball and they should be honored.

Anderson finished his career as the Magic’s top scoring leader. Photo Courtesy: Orlando Sentinel

The team could start with honoring the first draft pick in the organization’s history and current community ambassador Nick Anderson. Number 25 was drafted with the 11th pick in 1989 and spent 10 years on the court in the blue and white and helped Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals. When he finished his career he was the Magic’s franchise scoring leader with 10,650 points—he’s since been passed by Dwight Howard—and he’s still the leader in a few other categories including games played (692), steals (1,004) and field goals made (4,075). 

Anderson is the epitome of what the standard should be for Magic players on and off the court, this would be a great way to make that statement strong.

Shaq put Magic basketball on the national map. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Number 32 deserves to be in the rafters for Shaquille O’Neal. The “Diesel” only spent 4 seasons in central Florida wearing the blue and white with pinstripes, and his time ended tumultuous, but he is the guy who made Orlando Magic basketball relevant.

He is the organizations first ever NBA All-Star (1993-1996), he led them to their first ever playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). Shaq’s name is still prominent in the Magic record books. If it weren’t for him, who knows if there would still be a team in central Florida. Shaq became a global superstar in Orlando staring in movies and putting out platinum rap albums. O’Neal proved that you could become a Superstar in a “small market.”

Even though he never won a World Championship with the Magic, that hasn’t kept most fans from associating him with the Magic.
 
The team is inducting him into its Hall of Fame on March 27th, but a jersey retirement would be better. Most NBA fans still associate that number in those colors with him. It’s not like, say number one which had a few greats wear it in Magic colors.
 

Penny kept Orlando relevant after Shaq left. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Speaking of #1, it should be retired for Penny Hardaway. Tracy McGrady had a good run in that jersey, but in most fans mind, that jersey conjures up images of Mister 1Cent. In his prime, before the mountain of injuries, Penny was a perennial All-Star (94-98) and without Shaq kept the Magic in the playoffs.

Hardaway played six seasons with the Magic and in those years he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assist, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. When he retired he was third on the Magic career list in (2,343)—now fourth, third in steals (718), and fourth in points (7,018)—now seventh.

Penny’s impact on the Magic’s history is very similar to his running mate Shaq. Together they led the Magic to their first playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). He also drew his share of the national spotlight with his Nike commercials starring Chris Rock as “Lil’ Penny”, Hardaway’s alter ego to promote his signature shoes which are still widely popular and sought after decades years after he retired.  

D12 is the most accomplished player in Magic history. Photo Courtesy: Sun Sentinel

This one is obviously a ways off in terms of years, but in the future the team should honor Dwight Howard by raising his number 12 to the roof at Amway. 

His tenure ended muddier then Shaq’s, but he holds several of the most meaningful franchise records including points (11,435), rebounds (8,073) and blocks (1,344).

D12 led the Magic to their second NBA Finals appearance as well as winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards (2008-2011). He’s probably a borderline Hall of Famer in the minds of most voters, but if he does get selected, he will be remembered most for the part of his resume built wearing blue and white. That would make him Orlando’s first and only Hall of Famer. But what about Shaq? He will be known more for his time in Los Angeles and maybe even Miami.

Even though Shaq, Penny and Dwight left on bad terms, in the case of the first two the 25th Anniversary celebration proved time has healed old wounds. Hopefully by the time Dwight is finished his relationship with central Florida will be better.
The organization did a great job of honoring its past during last season 25th anniversary season and has a great Hall of Fame exhibit on display in the Amway concourse, this would be just another great way to show off the Magic’s great history.

UN-Magical Moments

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Wednesday night, the Orlando Magic wrap up their twenty fifth season as an NBA franchise. One where they trotted out the best players and significant members in the teams history, but I can’t help but to think about what could’ve been.

While they are far from the worst franchise in league history, you could argue they have been the worst managed. Being located in central Florida where it’s sun drenched ninety percent of the time, surrounded by family friendly fun with a mix of young adult exuberance—nightlife—and a tax free state. Let me say that again, a TAX FREE STATE. You would think they would’ve attracted top tier free agents that would’ve brought more than two NBA Finals appearance and won at least one World title.

So without further or do, here is my list of Magic mistakes.

1.) Shaq.

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Shaq put Orlando on the basketball map on and off the court in 1992.

Without a doubt they should’ve done everything possible to keep him in uniform. I know he left the Magic Kingdom as Free Agent, but he should’ve been offered outrageous extension the moment it was possible. He is the kind of player you give the keys to the franchise to—not a Dwight Howard. All O’Neal did was win three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and the most hurtful one for magic fans, one with in state rivals the Miami Heat.

2.) Not keeping Doc Rivers. This one could easily be number one on my list.

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Rivers has won an NBA Title and been to another Finals since being fired by Orlando.

His teams overachieved in his first tenure as a NBA coach. During his time, the Magic front office were “maneuvering” to draw in a trio of free agents. This left Coach Rivers and his teams very handicapped to do any winning in what was a very loaded Eastern Conference in the early 2000’s. The rest is history, Rivers was fired and eventually moved on to Boston where he won one title, made the NBA Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals two other times. Now he’s considered one of the top two coaches in the league along with the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.

3.) Trading away Ben Wallace.

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Wallace was a 4 time DPOY and his Pistons knocked out the magic in the playoffs 3 seasons.

Wallace was an after thought in the 2000 sign and trade with Detroit to bring Grant Hill to Orlando. Even without the injuries to Hill this would’ve stung. Wallace was a four time defensive player of the year winner and two time rebounding champ with the Detroit Pistons. He was the anchor behind a team that won an NBA Title and played for another. To make matters worse, his Pistons teams eliminated the Magic three times (2003,2007,2008) in the playoffs during his time in the Motor City.

4.) Trading away Tracy Mcgrady to the Rockets for Steve Francis.

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T-Mac was a two time Scoring Champ and 1st Team All NBA as a member of the Magic.

Could you imagine T-Mac playing with a young Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson? Those two were drafted the summer he was traded. I firmly believe Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley stunted Dwight and Jameer’s growth in their first couple of seasons. T-Mac went on to flourish alongside an often injured Yao Ming in Houston. McGrady alongside a raw, athletic Howard would’ve been the exceptional one-two punch management was going for when it courted Tim Duncan to play with McGrady in 2000.

5.) Courtney Lee misses an alley oop to win game two of the 2009 NBA Finals.

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The Magic have one victory in two trips to the NBA Finals (2009 & 1995). That’s 1-9. Oh how different the 2009 Finals would’ve been had that Magic stolen game two and home court advantage from the L.A. Lakers, just three days after being blown out by 25 points in game one. Orlando would’ve returned to central Florida tied 1-1 with three games to play and a psychological advantage for a young team. The Magic went on to win game three behind a record setting shooting performance before losing in overtime in game four and succumbing to the pressure of elimination in game five. Just imagine playing game five tied at two games and the pressure it would’ve put on the more experienced Lakers or even the Lakers having to hold off a confident, underdog Magic team up 3-2 with two games in L.A. In my opinion, the Magic would’ve finished off the Purple & Gold and completed their improbable run of knocking off three consecutive favorites—2008 defending champion Boston Celtics, MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs and Kobe’s Lakers—and Dwight Howard, and Stan Van Gundy would still be in Black & Blue.

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6.) Firing Stan Van Gundy.

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SVG has the best win percentage in Magic history at .657.

SVG was and still is the best overall coach in team history. He has the best win percentage in team history at .657. Letting former General Manager Otis Smith cut SVG lose to appease Dwight Howard may not sting right now, but his coaching style is perfect for young players who are still learning the game. No knock on Jacque Vaughn, but SVG has a college temperament that young players need to maximize their potential. He’s not afraid to get into the face of his players. That’s what guys in their rookie to third year need. I think SVG also needs them to, the Magic were in a youth movement when they brought him in before the 2007-2008 seasons. His style is the reason they went from being swept in the first round (2007 playoffs) to NBA Finals in two seasons. This move will sting again when he resurfaces with another franchise and excels like Doc Rivers.

7.) Not resigning Hedo Turkoglu and trying to replacing him with Vince Carter.

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“Turk” won Most Improved Player of the NBA in 2008 as a member of the Orlando Magic.

“Turk” was a matchup nightmare throughout the 2009 Playoffs. His size, playmaking and scoring ability was what led that team to the Finals. Dwight was great in key games—especially against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals—but remember he missed the first round clincher against the scrappy Philadelphia 76ers and it was the shooting of the Magic that propelled them to a blowout victory of the Celtics in game seven at the “New Garden” also without All Star point guard Jameer Nelson. Who facilitated all that? Turk. Former GM Otis Smith should’ve worked out a favorable two year deal to keep Hedo around while he was in the peak of his prime. Vince Carter was a shell of himself long before he made his “homecoming” to central Florida, that’s why he was shipped off to Phoenix after a season and a half. To make matters worse, Otis Smith brought Turk back, well after his prime, which hurt on the court and financially due to the large contract he received after his spectacular playoff performance.

So there you have it. My most Un-Magical moments in Orlando pro basketball history. I want to hear from you, are there any I missed?