The woes of determining the Orlando Magic’s greatest player ever

SportsChump at Amway Arena Eastern Conference FinalsAs a sports fan and furiously obsessed sports blogger, I subscribe to various online updates.  As a Magic fan, the Orlando Sentinel is one of those.

Orlando’s hometown newspaper recently, and rather fruitlessly, came up with a poll asking fans who they considered the best Magic player of all time.  One can’t help but wonder if that was a crack back at Dwight Howard’s continued whining from afar.  Regardless, it’s a great question, based on its absolute un-answer-ability.

A number of great players, Hall-of-Famers even, have donned the, grrr, Magic pinstripes.  I always hate that they did that.

But think about it.

The Magic have been around for twenty-five years and have been competitive for many of them (Note: they’ve made the playoffs 14 of those 25 seasons). And the bookmakers are tipping them to compete once again for years to come.

shaq and nickIn 1995, their coming-of-age period, they knocked off Michael Jordan’s Bulls betwixt their three-peats.  That Magic team featured Shaquille O’Neal (first ballot Hall-of Famer but spent only four years in a Magic uniform), Nick Anderson (Orlando’s all-time leader in games played and field goals – so what if he missed a couple, big free throws), Horace Grant (it was a coup when Orlando signed him but he’ll still be remembered as a Chicago Bull) and Anfernee Hardaway (once considered the second coming of Magic Johnson, but then again, so was Shaun Livingston).

The Magic went 60-22 the season after they made it to their first NBA Finals.  They got summarily swept by the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, led by a vengeful Michael Jordan who scored thirty points a game that series.

That was also the last time Shaquille O’Neal would wear a Magic uniform.

Orlando soon ushered in their next generation of talent: Darrell Armstrong and the scoring machine that would become Tracy McGrady.  Tim Duncan was wooed as a free agent but opted to stay in San Antonio.  Grant Hill signed with the Magic but the booted, suited wonder played only 200 games in seven seasons.  He earned $92 million over that stretch and that’s rounding down.

That experiment didn’t end well either.  Those teams never made it out of the first round of the playoffs.

Then came a third, Magic-al rebirth: the Stan Van Gundy years.  Only a few seasons earlier, Orlando had drafted Dwight Howard.  Despite reaching their second NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers, that team featured solid talent, including Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, yet who of those would rank among Orlando’s greatest?

So where does that leave us?

I’ll tell you where.  With a bunch of good players (O’Neal, Howard, McGrady, Grant, Hardaway, etc.) but none who will be ultimately associated with the Orlando Magic.  Dennis Scott, Darrell Armstrong, Nick Anderson, Scott Skiles were all Magic favorites but are their numbers retirement worthy?   And if they are, will the Magic be settling by doing so?  Heck, Wade Boggs played just over 200 games in a Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays uniform and they retired his number.  By that logic, why not let everyone in?

Orlando Magic retired numbersThe Magic are an expansion franchise.  They don’t have the history other NBA franchises do.  The Boston Celtics have (rightfully) retired twenty uniform numbers, with more to come.  You might not be able to agree upon the greatest Celtic of all-time but at least you have a healthy selection to choose from.  The fact that Pat Garrity is fourth on the list of Magic players’ all times games played should tell us that the Magic have a long, long way to go.

As a Magic fan, it’s difficult for me to determine their best player of all-time.  If I had to choose the best player I saw in his prime while wearing a Magic uniform, it would have to be Tracy McGrady.  Even though he played only four years in Orlando (it seemed like longer), he led the league in scoring twice, including dropping over 32 a game in 2002-3.  If you ask me who meant the most to the franchise, despite the tragic turn of events of four missed free throws, it would still have to be Nick Anderson.   Shaq put the franchise on the map, but didn’t play there long enough.  Penny was money but, like so many others, his career was as fleeting as his role in Blue Chips.  And Dwight, well, I’ve said enough about him.

There’s a reason the Orlando Magic haven’t retired any numbers yet and that’s okay.

They will.  It’s just going to take a while.


22 thoughts on “The woes of determining the Orlando Magic’s greatest player ever

  1. Pingback: The woes of determining the Orlando Magic’s greatest player ever - BallHyped Blog Network, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. Chris

    Other than when John Gabriel was the general manager of the Magic , the franchise has had some extremely lean years . Wesisbrod on his best could not figure out the difference between night day but yet he was being asked to assess talent and handle much of the team’s business operations with with Rob Vanderweide , Rich de Vos’ son-in-law . In a case such as that , it was similar being handled the keys to a Pinto with four flat tires and an empty gas tank. . Otis Thorpe on his best day could not spell the word ” talent ” much less assess it at the NBA level . Now the Magic has Jacque Vaughn as the head coach and Alex and Rob Hennigan as general manager . And we all saw how well that / experiment went last season don’t we ? .

    In terms of the Magic’s greatest players , Shaq has to be atop of that list and then from there you shuffle around your preferences . Dwight to ,my mind , is a very good player , but lacks heart and the temperament to lead . It simply doesn’t now matter where his career takes now him , he will never have trait . And that is one of the idiocies I find galling , is when I hear analysts describing him as being great . Dwight Howard has never lead the Magic in terms being a perennial contender while he was with the NBA franchise. He remains infantile and immature , all of this for someone who has been in the league for almost decade . Superman or Super-dud ?

    Bad losses for both Florida and the Buccaneers . Two teams heading aimlessly nowhere, and with two coaches who now appear to be out of their depth, while offering up futile excuses .

    tophatal ………………

  3. For the most part though, Al, they’ve put a competitive product on the floor over the years. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that, like any other organization, except for maybe the St Louis Cardinals and also the Miami Heat, they’ve made some seriously boneheaded moves.

    Arguably their three best players (Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard), they haven’t been able to keep in an Orlando uniform.

    Now they’re starting from scratch again with Victor Oladipo. Here’s how sad things are. They actually included Oladipo in their poll. The poor guy hasn’t even played a game for the Magic yet and they’re asking fans if they think he’s one of their best players of all time.

    I liked what Vaughn got out of that team last year. Let’s see if they can improve upon that.

    The Bucs and Gators, Al? Well, you’re right. Fortunately I slept through both of those games this weekend.

    And that IS surprising news about Leyland. You scooped me. What were the reasons he gave for leaving? You’d think they’d contend again next year no problem.

  4. Chris

    Leyland simply felt it was time to call it a day . Eight years with the Tigers, but he has been involved in the game , at all levels , for almost four decades . I believe that should be long enough for him to pass some of his immense knowledge to a successor on that current Tigers’ coaching staff .

    The Bucs are an extremely bad team going b> absolutely nowhere . They play with heart but they lack discipline and make way too many idiotic mistakes on the field of play .

    With the Gators that roster is simply not good enough to scare anyone at all .

    Is Jason Collins that bad of a player, that no team wants to sign him , merely because of his sexual preference ? I mean if Greg Oden , Darko Milicic and Kwame Brown can still get a gig in the NBA , then why not Jason Collins ?

    tophatal ………………………..

  5. Chris,

    Leyland is a class act but you have to wonder about his health. All those cigarettes ingested, regardless of recently quitting, have taken their toll. Valverde didn’t help much either.

  6. Chump,

    It’s a sad legacy to build when there is truly no one worthy of a “greatest” label. I’d agree with Al that Shaq was the most dominant inside force in his time but he won nothing until he became a Laker and paired with Kobe. T-Mac was superb as well but what can be said of any ‘star’ who bolts at first light?

    I’m not a Magic fan but I grant props to ANY team that makes the playoffs 14 times in 25 years… “that” is how success is earned.

    Good luck next year

  7. Chris

    Other than Shaq’s tenure , the players the organization sought to build around have not shown a great deal of depth or leadership , and has been the main reason why they have now fallen on hard times .

    After the Giants’ victory last night , Eli phoned home to tell Archie Manning that he too needs love , just like his elder sibling , Peyton Manning .

  8. Slim pickins if only judged on what they accomplished in Orlando.

    I’d go with Shaq based solely on his impact on the game at the time. He not only put them on the map, he took them to the Finals, shattered backboards, became a movie star, rapper and media sensation…All accomplished BEFORE coming to LA.

    I’d say he was the biggest thing to happen to that town since Walt Disney.

    Too bad about Penny…He was amazingingly talented. Dude could do it all before the injury. I use to look forward to Magic games when Penny & Shaq were there.

    McGrady put up numbers in Orlando as you pointed out, but never did anything in the post season…In his whole career. Exciting scorer but pretty one dimensional. He and Vince should have stayed in Toronto.

  9. Al…

    I get that Leyland is getting up there in the years but that Detroit team is stacked. I don’t know what sort of off-season contractual obligations they’ll need to address but I doubt Jimmy had much to do with that anyway.

    Let’s just say that whoever takes his place will have a pretty easy job. That team is essentially a shoo-in for next year’s playoffs.

    The Bucs are going nowhere but at least I’ll be seeing them go nowhere this Thursday night at Ray Jay. My first game of the season. And beverages will be had.

    Interesting thought. Carmelo in Orlando. As a fan, I’d have to say no. What for? Has he proven he can do anything but shoot the ball for top dollar?ve to me he can be a part of a championship (not the Olympics) and I’ll change my tune.

  10. Tree…

    The Magic had two really successful runs both years they made it to the Finals.

    But now we rebuild.

    We’ve hired Rob Hennigan, that Mike LoPresti type, thinking that’ll change the culture.

    And from what I’m hearing, Oladipo was the guy they wanted. He’s not gonna be able to do it all by himself though. I can’t see this team making the playoffs this year, which’ll make 14 of 26.

  11. Bleed…

    You may be right.

    It’s funny though how Dwight has burned all bridges leading to Central Florida.

    Let’s keep in mind, he did play their longer than either Shaq and T-Mac. He’s their team leader in scoring, minutes played, free throws, free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds and blocks yet not a single one of us in the poll above voted him as the greatest Magic player ever.

    Gee, I wonder why.

  12. Chris

    Archie has welcomed Eli back into the familial fold .

    The Tigers I believe are set , but I would prefer if GM Dave Dombrowski hires from within rather than going out and seeking a big name to succeed Jim Leyland . There’s a cautionary tale to be learned in the aftermath of the Bobby Valentine fiasco , after he succeeded Terry Francona .

    Remember our conversation concerning whether or not Robinson Cano would get that big money deal from the New York Yankees ? Consider the following, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw who after a spectacular season becomes an arbitration eligible free agent . Talks are now in earnest , with the Dodgers willing to up the ante and offer him a ten-year $280 to $300 million deal .

    Dodgers’ team contracts , yearly salaries and team payroll (2013)

    A two decade long , $8 billion television contract does have its sues apart from the billions in assets of Guggenheim Partners as the ball-club’s proprietary owners .

    tophatal ………..

  13. Somehow, Al, I don’t think Bobby Valentine will be getting another gig in the majors any time soon.

    And re: Cano/Kershaw, there’s a difference between paying an ace pitcher that kind of money and a second baseman, particularly a pitcher like Kershaw, although I don’t know how these franchises can bankrupt themselves like that. Just seems like a big risk.

  14. Chris

    I don’t believe Bobby Valentin is likely to get another managerial gig ! Not with his handling of the Red Sox in 2012 and the excuses made by the then manager in blaming others for the numerous managerial mistakes he made .

    In baseball , since when did money and finances make any sense to the teams , general managers or the owners ? Thy simply treat it like confetti more often than not .

    Fans now seem to be more concerned whether or not instant replay will be a hit within the game while in reality almost one quarter of the teams are barely profitable without getting an assist from the MLB hierarchy . Which issue do you believe needs to be addressed more urgently ?

    Freeman threw over 53 times in the game against the Giants and still his QB rating and completion percentage were abhorrent . That is all you need to know concerning the player in week seven .

    tophatal ……………

  15. Al…

    I’ll go as far as to say that Valentine will NEVER get another coaching gig, at least in the major leagues. Why would anybody hire him? The Sox are about to win a World Series with a team he couldn’t squeeze 70 wins out of.

    Speaking of instant replay in the sport, how about the umps actually getting one right early in tonight’s game. Kudos to those guys for it would have been the talk of the Series had they not reversed that call.

    Oh, and if the Cards don’t regroup quickly and put that Game One shellacking behind them, this series could be over as quickly as their last one was.

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