Way back in 1987, two business men had no idea that their dream would fast become a reality changing the entire image of the city. Driven by the slogan, “Orlando believes in Magic” the professional basketball team of the city quickly became a success story at home and certainly at national level. The franchise came into existence in 1989 as an expansion and attracted NBA star players such as Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, Nick Anderson, Gilbert Arenas, and Rashard Lewis. The franchise has been part of playoff for more than half of its fledgling history with 12 playoff appearances in 21 years. In terms of winning percentage, Orlando has proved to be the most successful of the four expansion teams brought into the league in 1988 and 1989. As of 2010, they were the only team in the “big four” sports league to play in the city of Orlando.(Books Llc,2010)
The Orlando Magic made its presence felt on the NBA scene in 1989 following the contest sponsored by Orlando Magic team official and the local Orlando Sentinel newspaper aimed at encouraging the community to come up with names for the new franchise. As many as 4,296 entries were submitted that were narrowed down to four names, “Tropics” the “Juice” “Heat” and “Magic.
The committee decided to go into NBA with the name of “Magic”. In the first place, the NBA was aiming to expand by three times but with the successful pitches made by the Miami and Orlando ownership the expansion committee chose to expand by four teams giving them a chance to have a franchise. The Magic came out as the first ever major-league professional sports franchise in the Orlando area. It was first led by DuPont III along with two brothers namely James and Robert Hewitt serving as general partners and former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Pat Williams. The expansion fee was estimated to be $32.5 million.
James Hewitt and Pat Williams accentuated the need for an NBA franchise for two main reasons. It was not a smart choice plus the franchise was necessary to attain national recognition. Matt Guokas took over the Magic as the first head coach and helped the franchise in selecting twelve players in the NBA Expansion Draft on June 15, 1989. The Magic selected Nick Anderson with 11th pick in the first round who moved on to become the first draft pick of the franchise. On November 4, 1989, the team played its first competitive game against New Jersey Nets. The team lost by 111-106 in an evenly-contested game yet it soon embraced victory against the New York Knicks 118-110 two days later. The inaugural team secured a record of 18-64 with players including Reggie Theus, Scott Skiles, Terry Catledge, Sam Vincent, Otis Smith, and Jerry Reynolds.
In the 1990 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic chose Dennis Scott with the fourth overall pick. Scott Skiles, on December 30, 1990, amassed 30 assists in the 155-116 win over the Denver Nuggets and broke Kevin’s Porter’s NBA single-game assists record. At the end of the season he was nominated as the most improved player of the season. In the same season, the Magic earned the NBA’s most improved record as well.
Forward Dennis Scott made a team mark with 125 three-point field goals for the season. It was the best performance displayed by a rookie in NBA history. He quickly made his way to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. There were as many as 40 sellouts of 41 home games despite the record 31-51.
The DeVos family bought the franchise for $85 million and the family head Richard DeVos took over as the owner of the franchise. The 1991-92 season turned out to be a bad run for the team as injuries pulled several players out of the games. Dennis Scott could play only 14 games while Anderson missed 22 games. Jerry Reynolds, Brian Williams, Sam Vincent and Otis Smith pulled out of 27 games apiece. Given the dearth of star players representing the side, The Magic, nevertheless, still had all 41 home games missed.
The Magic after winning the first pick in the 1992 Draft successfully selected the huge guy Shaquille O’Neal who soon made it a profound imprint on the team. It saw The Magic earn the acclaim of being the NBA’s most improved franchise. It should be noted that O’Neal turned out to be the first rookie player voted and recognized as an All-Stat starter since Michael Jordan in 1985.
The 1994-95, the Magic’s sixth season brought enormous success. All-Star forward Horace Grant’s acquisition from the Chicago Bulls proved a good omen for the side as the team compiled a 57-25 record best in the East and lifted the Atlantic Division title. It also became the second-fastest team to make it to the NBA Finals in league history. The Magic crushed the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers to cement a spot in the NBA finals. However, the Houston Rockets ended Orlando’s cup run with whooping 4-0 and were crowned champions.(Nichols, 2001)
In the next season, they came close to clinching Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division with a 60-22 record. The Magic took off with an impressive 16-4 record in 2007-2008 season including a well-deserved victory over Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic ended Raptor’s cup run with a 4-1 series victory in the first round on April 28, 2008. The Magic recorded this win as the first playoff series victory after 12 years.
The first half of the 2008-09 season remained very successful for the Magic. They became the leading team with 33-8 in Southeast Division as well as having top four records in the league. The Magic concluded the regular season with a 59-23 record winning the most games since 60 wins in the season of 1995-96. They vanquished the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of playoffs and defeated the defending champions, the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Magic also beat the Cleveland Cavaliers after losing first two games against the Angeles Lakers. The Magic finally won their first ever games in the Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers winning the first-ever game in the Finals in Game 3.
On September 28, 2009, Orlando gave an extension to the head coach, Stan Van Gundy. They did the same with General Manager Otis Smith who would retain the same position throughout the 2011–12 season.
In January, Orlando lost seven of their first ten games but soon rediscovered their form to win and make a winning record for the month by winning six of their next seven. After the All-Star break, the Magic produced some stunning performances winning 23 of their 28 remaining games, retaining their fourth consecutive playoff berth and winning their third consecutive division championship in the process. The Magic ended the regular season with a 59–23 record, matching their record from the 2008–09 season, and finishing with not only the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, but the second-best record in the entire league as well.
The Magic overwhelmed Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs respectively. They then clashed with the Boston Celtics in the conference finals. After losing the first three games of the series Orlando won the next two games but lost on the road in Game 6 which concluded their season. All in all, Orlando has been able to make a name for itself in the NBA arena generating national acclaim and international recognition.