25 Historical Moments as Orlando Magic Celebrate 25 Years in the NBA
This year represents 25 years in the NBA for the Orlando Magic. They have already been through so many peaks and valleys at such a young age, and at a quarter century, what better time to take a trip down memory lane?
Orlando has had a surprising amount of stars make their way through Central Florida since their inception, with their rebuilding processes lasting a very short while. Best of all, the city of Orlando has embraced their first pro sports franchise with as much love and gratitude as possible.
As we reminisce, we will see all of the best and most memorable moments in Orlando's young history, with just a couple added bittersweet ones. There will be some exemplary moments that even the casual fan remembers, as well as a few that should uncover some memories we all forgot about.
After a quarter century of existence, few teams can lay claim to being as noteworthy at such a young age.
*All stats and information obtained from Basketball-Reference.com or ESPN.com
25. Orlando Wins Their Inaugural Game Against the Defending Champion Pistons
On October 13, 1989, Orlando saw their first ever professional sports event. The defending champion Detroit Pistons strolled into the Amway Arena and surprisingly fell to the newly anointed Orlando Magic.
The crowd was unreal and willed their vastly undermanned team to victory over Isaiah Thomas and the powerhouse Pistons. They would go on to underwhelm during their preemptive campaign, finishing just 18-64.
It was an expected poor season for the expansion team, but it wouldn't be long before they turned it around. The first game was the highlight of the season as Central Florida finally had a team to call their own.
24. Orlando Acquires Grant Hill
Despite the bevy of ankle injuries, one of which was even life-threatening, it was a massive deal when Grant Hill was acquired from the Detroit Pistons in a sign-and-trade on August 3, 2000.
Hill dropped triple-doubles like they were going out of business during his years in Detroit. When Orlando dealt Chucky Atkins and the young Ben Wallace to Detroit it seemed like a can't-miss deal. Excitement and anticipation were through the roof as the Magic had acquired yet another legitimate superstar in their young history.
The optimist of all optimists would choose to remember Hill's good days in Orlando and the games where he actually suited up. He played just 47 games over his first four season while Ben Wallace turned into an ogre in the paint for the Pistons.
Regardless, it was an iconic moment in franchise history as management made a strong move to slot a superstar next to Tracy McGrady.
23. Vucevic and Harris Combine for 60 Points, 39 Rebounds and 10 Assists in Win
J.J. Redick's return to Orlando on April 10, 2013 was greatly overshadowed by the young rookie Tobias Harris, who completely stole the show.
Harris threw down an inhuman stat line of 30 points, 19 rebounds and five assists. Even more ridiculous was that teammate Nikola Vucevic posted a nearly identical stat line of 30 points, 20 rebounds and five assists.
Harris and Vucevic were the first pair of teammates to each go for 30 points and 19 boards since 1967. It was just one game against a middling Milwaukee Bucks team, but the performance signaled a changing of the guard down in Orlando. These two young players are something special.
22. Orlando Lands Rashard Lewis with Max Contract
On July 11, 2007, Orlando made an eye-popping move by acquiring star forward Rashard Lewis from the now defunct Seattle Supersonics with an unprecedented max contract of six years for $118 million.
Lewis was extremely pricey, but it was a strong move by a small market team to establish themselves as a contender. Rashard fit like a glove at power forward as a complement to Dwight Howard, canning over 220 threes in each of his first two season in Orlando.
He did make one All-Star team, but his contract brought unrealistic expectations upon him. He was still a great player during his three and a half seasons in Orlando before being dealt to the Washington Wizards so Orlando could rid themselves of that contract.
21. T-Mac's Dunk off the Backboard in 2002 All-Star Game
A career sadly cut short due to lingering injuries made some forget just how unbelievable Tracy McGrady was in his prime.
Even under the brightest lights amongst the biggest stars, T-Mac still managed to stand out. His off-the-backboard dunk in the All-Star game was just one play in a somewhat meaningless game, but it did what McGrady did best and got everybody out of their seats.
This was truly a play to remember for Magic fans and basketball fans in general.
20. Orlando Drafts Dwight Howard No. 1 Overall
In dire need of a new franchise player to anchor the next era of great Magic teams, Orlando won the 2004 lottery and made the surprise choice of selecting high schooler Dwight Howard over the safer Emeka Okafor.
The pick turned out to be the right one as Howard went on to lead Orlando to multiple playoff appearances as well as one trip to the NBA Finals. He won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, made six All-Star teams and established himself as the best center in the NBA.
Like O'Neal, Howard's tenure in Orlando ended poorly, but it does not take away all that he did. For the better part of eight years, he was a bona-fide superstar who loved being in Orlando despite the small market. He made winning a tradition there and made his teammates better by drawing so much attention in the paint and covering up their mistakes on defense.
19. Orlando Ushers in Amway Center Era with 29-Point Blowout
On October 28, 2010, the Magic ushered in a new era of Orlando basketball in their new state-of-the-art Amway Center. They rudely greeted the Washington Wizards to town with a 112-83 shellacking.
Magic owner Rich DeVos and NBA Commissioner David Stern were on hand during pregame to address the crowd and also give thanks to Orlando and Orange County for creating one of the all-around best facilities in the entire country.
It was a special night and one that signified just how much the Magic mean to the city of Orlando.
18. Howard Wins Third Consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award
In 2011, Dwight Howard became the first player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three consecutive times.
To add to the accolades, Dwight also led the league with 66 double-doubles that season. If not for his back injury the following year, he may have won the award for a fourth time in a row.
For all of the pain and suffering Howard pinned on Magic fans and ownership towards the end of his tenure, his prowess on the court cannot be forgotten. His three consecutive awards will likely be something that stands up for a good while and remains one of the most impressive feats in both Orlando Magic and NBA history.
17. Rashard Lewis' Game Winner vs. Cavaliers in Conference Semifinals
Although he was vastly overpaid, there were few things prettier than when Rashard Lewis cocked back those tree branch arms and uncoiled his infamous three-pointers. None were bigger than the game winner he nailed with 14.7 seconds left against Cleveland in Game 1 of the Conference Finals on May 20, 2009.
LeBron James and his 66-win Cavaliers were steamrolling through the Eastern Conference and laughing along the way. They were 8-0 in the postseason until Lewis knocked them off their high horse with his stunning three from the wing.
Lewis did have some ups and downs, but he had his fair share of huge moments. None were bigger than his gut-wrenching blow to Cleveland on their way to the 2009 NBA Finals.
16. Orlando Drafts Shaquille O'Neal No. 1 Overall
When Orlando landed a franchise back in 1989, that was the obvious first step towards building a powerhouse team. The next step was to land an iconic superstar figure to lead those teams.
When the ping pong balls bounced their way and they won the rights to select Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando had their man. The Magic's trajectory for the future immediately grew ten times brighter.
Shaq was a can't-miss transcendent talent coming out of LSU. There was no doubt he would turn into one of, if not the most dominant big man in NBA history. He did exactly that from day one, winning Rookie of the Year with 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.
His time in Orlando was short-lived and did not end well at all, but he was the superstar that got the ball rolling for the franchise. He made Orlando an attractive destination for free agents in the present and the future from the minute he brought his huge game and equally huge personality to the city.
15. Howard Signs Huge Contract Extension
On July 12, 2007, Dwight Howard made a long-term commitment to the only franchise he had ever known and loved.
Orlando locked up Howard with a five-year $80 million dollar deal to keep their 21-year-old franchise center in place. This went down just one day after the huge Rashard Lewis deal, immediately cementing them as a long-term threat in the Eastern Conference.
It was a great day for all parties, one that even prompted Howard to say, "Me and Mickey Mouse will be here forever."
If by forever he really meant five more years, then he nailed that prediction.
14. Magic Erase 24-Point Second Half Deficit in Win over Heat
On March 3, 2011, the Magic took a trip down to South Beach and got blown off the court by halftime. They found themselves down 73-49 early in the third quarter in what was about to be a forgettable night.
The Magic then whipped out a furious 40-9 rally to take the lead and eventually win the game. The 24-point comeback was just one point off the franchise record set in Cleveland in 1989.
Best of all, after scoring a combined 47 points by halftime which eclipsed the Magic's total as a team, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were locked down completely after the break and netted just ten points.
It was a statement win and one of the more memorable nights in Orlando regular season history. Dwight Howard and company got the best of the team almost everyone believed was invincible.
13. Shaquille O'Neal Breaks His First Hoop
Busted rims and shattered backboards were not exactly common, but did happen from time to time back in the day. Then some beast named Shaquille O'Neal came along and crushed the steel support beams supporting the backboard against the Phoenix Suns during his rookie season.
Collapsing a rim is something only Shaq could have done. Because of him, the NBA had to up their game when it came to backboard support. The following season, the league had to institute added support by increasing the stability of the backboard and the steel brace strength after Shaq destroyed not one, but two of their very expensive basketball goals.
No word on whether the league dipped into Shaq's paycheck to pay for those bad boys.
12. Hardaway Rips Michael Jordan, Hands Bulls One of Ten Losses on the Season
Michael Jordan's 1995-95 Chicago Bulls posted an NBA record campaign of 72 wins with just ten losses. To Orlando Magic fans, one of those losses still remains such a satisfying victory.
With Shaquille O'Neal out for the game due to injury, second-year Penny Hardaway took on Jordan and Pippen by himself and won. He firmly got the best of the legend for 36 points and five rebounds on 12-for-18 shooting.
Better yet, he held Jordan to an uncharacteristic 23 points on the other end. It was a day that entrenched Hardaway as a legitimate star in this league for years to come.
11. Orlando Trades No. 1 Overall Pick Chris Webber in Draft-Day Deal
With the top pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, Orlando surprised nobody by taking Michigan sophomore superstar Chris Webber. It was very short-lived, as his Orlando hat was taken off immediately after shaking David Stern's hand.
Orlando dealt him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first round picks. Hardaway would go on to lead Orlando to a number of great seasons alongside Shaquille O'Neal, while Webber was oddly dealt away by the Warriors after just one season.
It was a powerful day in Magic history, as they made such a titanic move yet it still turned out to be an effective one.
10. T-Mac Goes for 42/10/8 in Game 3 of the First Round Against Milwaukee
The biggest and possibly the only knock on T-Mac's career was his lack of playoff success.
He made it out of the first round one time, and it was a bench warmer for the 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs in their run to the NBA Finals. However, his playoff numbers were stellar, and much of the blame for his early demises should be placed elsewhere.
T-Mac had a number of stellar games in the playoffs, namely his incredible 42-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist night against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 28, 2001. His team was down 2-0 in the series and facing elimination, and McGrady threw the squad on his back by playing 50 minutes in the overtime win.
For a career largely remembered for disappointing playoff runs, he had plenty of memorable games in the postseason. None rivaled his game three against Milwaukee.
9. Dwight Howard Traded to Lakers
On August 10, 2012, Orlando went through with the inevitable trade of franchise superstar Dwight Howard. He was shipped to Los Angeles in a massive 4-team trade that landed Josh McRoberts, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, Christian Eyenga, Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic in Magic uniforms along with multiple first round draft picks.
Orlando was finally able to move on from the Dwightmare. His time in Central Florida had clearly run its course, and Orlando reeled in a very nice package in return for his services.
After seeing his one disastrous season in purple and gold, any doubt that they had made the right move had surely been alleviated.
8. Nick Anderson Nets Franchise's First 50-Point Game
With the 11th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, Orlando made Nick Anderson their first ever draft pick. It was only fitting that he would grab the franchise's first 50-point game a few years later against the Nets in 1993.
Anderson got lost in the shuffle at times amongst Shaq and Penny Hardaway, but he was a very nice player in his own right. Coincidentally, his 50 came on the same night Shaq demolished another backboard.
The most impressive part of Anderson's career night was that it came from off the bench. When was the last time a guy dropped 50 off the bench? That's right, Anderson is the only player ever who can lay distinction to that claim.
Many Magic fans may not remember his performance, but it is a pretty incredible accomplishment.
7. Turkoglu Thrashes Celtics in Game 7 of 2009 Conference Semis
There are two words that make every die-hard basketball fan salivate.
Hedo Turkoglu was always the unsung hero of the team during his Magic years. He was a do-it-all type of player who was the man coach Stan Van Gundy would routinely turn to if he needed a big play. Never did he show up more when they needed him than during game seven of the conference semifinals.
Turkoglu schooled the Celtics with 25 points and 12 assists, converting nine of his 12 shot attempts and nailing four of his five three-pointers. He also scored ten points in the final quarter to put a close game completely out of reach.
6. T-Mac Drops 62-Point Masterpiece Against the Wizards
T-Mac obviously had a number of jaw-dropping performances in his day, but his 62-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist game on 20-for-37 shooting takes the cake.
Only 15 other players have ever scored 60 points in a game, so the night put McGrady in elite company. It was just one of many phenomenal performances he had against the Wizards.
It tied for the 12th-biggest scoring night in NBA history. Do yourself a favor and watch the beat-down right here.
5. Shaq Posts Insane Triple Double vs. Nets During Rookie Season
On November 20, 1993, a young rookie by the name of Shaquille O'Neal put together one of the most dominant performances in modern NBA history.
Shaq obliterated the Nets to the tune of 24 points, 28 rebounds, three assists and an unheard of 15 blocks.
The 15 blocks to this day are the most anyone has had in an NBA game since 1985, but the fact that he did it while also posting a 20/20 game is insane. It is obviously an Orlando Magic record that has little chance of being broken anytime soon.
4. Scott Skiles Logs NBA Record 30 Assists
When asked who holds the NBA single-game assists record, not many people would come up with the name Scott Skiles.
On December 30, 1990, Skiles went off for 22 points, six rebounds and an NBA record 30 assists. He was so good he managed to more than double the opposing Denver Nuggets assist total for the entire game 30-14.
Skiles is now a solid NBA coach, but doesn't get remembered enough for what kind of player he was. Skiles was the epitome of an unselfish basketball teammate. He made everyone around him better and was Orlando's first star (or closest thing to it).
The 30 assists are a very tall order and stand today as a record unlikely to be broken anytime soon.
3. Howard Leads Orlando to the 2009 Finals
Despite having a tough draw in the 2009 playoffs, Orlando overcame the odds and steamrolled through the east taking out the defending champion Boston Celtics as well as knocking out LeBron James and his mighty Cleveland Cavaliers who had won 66 games in the regular season.
The Magic used a superb 40-point/14-rebound effort from Dwight Howard in Game 6 to beat the top-ranked Cavaliers en route to their second NBA Finals appearance. Instead of only relying on superstars, this Magic team got by on defense and overall team basketball.
Sadly, the Magic ran into another tough matchup against Kobe Bryant's Lakers in the Finals and lost 4-1. Each game was close beside Game 1, but Howard was mostly shut down by the tandem of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Even though they failed to bring home their first title, 2009 was a fantastic year for Orlando. It was incredible to see them defy the odds and beat two teams in the East believed to be too tough for them.
2. O'Neal and Hardaway Lead Orlando to the 1995 Finals
In just their sixth NBA season, the Magic made a shocking run all the way to the NBA Finals behind their superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway as well as new free agent addition Horace Grant.
Orlando finished with the top record in the east behind an unreal 39-2 record at home. They are widely regarded as one of the best teams to not win a title.
Unfortunately for the young Magic, they ran into the wrong team. Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Rockets swept them right off the floor. Despite Shaq leading the league in scoring at 29.3 points per game, The Dream got the best of him. Olajuwon put up over 30 points in each game of the series and outscored the much younger O'Neal every time.
Although Orlando ultimately fell short, this remains the best season in Magic history. They had nothing to be ashamed of even though they lost, as they went so far and beyond what any team could dream of doing in just their sixth year of existence.
1. Orlando Shoots Record 62.5 Percent in Game 3 of 2009 Finals
Up until Game 3 of the 2009 NBA Finals, Orlando had been 0-6 in Finals games. They rode a white-hot 62.5 percent shooting night on June 9, 2009 to finally get on the board in their Finals history as well as get themselves back in the series at 2-1 with a 108-104 victory.
Aside from Marcin Gortat's 0-for-1 night, everyone on the team made at least half of their attempts. It was a balanced effort as they got over 18 points a piece from Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus.
Sadly, it would turn out to be Orlando's lone victory in the lopsided Finals. Despite that, it remains cemented in Orlando Magic history as they work towards their next shot at the title.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!