No one’s more likely to believe in Magic than a sports fan from Orlando!
Founded in 1989, the Orlando Magic are the youngest team in the NBA’s Southeast Division. Local developer and banker Jim Hewitt pitched the franchise idea to Philadelphia 76ers general manager Pat Williams in 1985, and Williams agreed to help get the ball rolling. To decide on the name, they posted a contest in the Orlando Sentinel, which narrowed down the options to “Heat,” “Tropics,” “Juice” and “Magic.” The winner was chosen after Williams’ daughtercame to Florida for a visit; she made a comment about the city feeling magical that influenced the review committee. Since the popular tourist attraction, Walt Disney World, was a big claim to fame for the area, “Magic” seemed like a fitting choice.
Of course, the franchise shares the Sunshine State with another pro squad: the Miami Heat. These two teams have given basketball fans some great games in the past, particularly any time the Heat’s Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway were up against the Magic’s Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. The first time these clubs fought face-to-face in the playoffs was in '97, but as any Floridian knows, regular Magic vs. Heat games can still get pretty tense.
The Magic have had their fair share of all-star players, including famous centers Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Both began their professional hoops careers with Orlando and then moved on to play for other teams. Luckily for the Magic, Shaq was a hit right from the start; he was named Player of the Week after his very first week in the NBA and followed that up with many more amazing achievements. Howard was equally successful for the team, especially since he was the first NBA player drafted directly from high school to start all 82 games during his rookie season.
Another notable Magic alumnus is seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. In 2000, he signed on as a free agent so he could return home to Florida and have a more significant role in the game. Not long after he started playing for Orlando, he was voted the league’s Most Improved Player. Four years later, he was traded to the Houston Rockets in a seven-player deal. What was initially viewed as an even trade turned out to be one of the most lopsided in NBA history, leaving the Magic at a disadvantage. After a decade of fluctuating records, the franchise drafted Nikola Vučević in 2012. Vučević brought young, fresh talent to the team, and more importantly, hope for the future.
Orlando has one big acquisition that it can really brag about: a state-of-the-art, 20,000-person stadium. The Amway Center took the place of the demolished Amway Arena or “O-Rena,” and boasted the largest Jumbotron in the NBA when it opened in October 2010. It’s also the only entertainment venue to have a “Dragon’s Lair,” where the beloved team mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, lives. Fuzzy and neon green with pink wings and star antennae, Stuff is one beast who’s more friendly than fearsome. His rowdy antics and mischievous tricks never fail to get Floridians of every age laughing and cheering. So while Orlando might not have a storied history of NBA championship wins, they can always count on their loyal fans -- and a funny dragon -- to rally behind them and keep the Magic alive.