A Second Opinion on Nick Anderson

Earlier today, Eddy gave you his take on the possibility of the Orlando Magic retiring Nick Anderson's uniform number. He laid out the facts with a little help from Jon Nichols and Neil Paine. Now, using a slightly different approach, I'll take on the same subject.

Before we continue, a confession. Nick Anderson is absolutely one of my favorite Magic players, ever. A poster depicting him dunking adorned my wall as an eight-year-old, alongside one of Penny Hardaway, but I always liked Nick just a bit more. Although I'd like to keep sentiment outside this evaluation, it might find ways to creep in. And ultimately, would that be so bad? Jersey retirements are, by nature, sentimental events.

I'll have help in this process, as Eddy had in his. I've shamelessly lifted the "jersey retirement formula" Ben Golliver of Blazersedge devised over a year ago, which Eddy too has mentioned. But as Ben explains in the post, the "formula" uses only addition, and is wholly uncomplicated. Golliver awarded anywhere from 1 to 5 points in 5 distinct categories, for a possible maximum score of 25. After the jump, we'll see how Nick fares.

  1. Criterion One: Connection with the Franchise

    Ben explains:

    To determine how closely a player is connected with a franchise, one generally assesses 4 conditions:

    1. Did the player play his most important years with the team?

    2. Did the player play the majority of his career with the team?

    3. Was the player drafted by the team?

    4. Did the player retire with the team?

    So it's readily apparent that Anderson satisfies items 1, 2, and 3 on the list. Counting the playoffs, he played 736 of his 849 games with Orlando, which made him the first draft selection in franchise history. Because he did not retire with the team--which shipped him to Sacramento for Tariq Abdul-Wahad 10 years and 10 days ago--I cannot award him the maximum 5 points for this category. For meeting the other components here, however, he gets 4 points, and we move on.

  2. Criterion Two: Success with the Franchise

    From Ben:

    Judging a player's relative success across generations can be tricky, but its clear two factors are important to consider: the maximum success his team's enjoyed and his role in creating that success.

    Ask yourself, "Can the story of the franchise's glory days be told without mentioning this player?"

    To weigh both the team's success and the player's role in that sucess, I gave 5 points to a star on a championship team, 5 points to a starter on championship team, 5 points to a star on a finalist team, 4 points to a role player on a finalist team and 4 points to a starter on a finalist team.

    Even Anderson's harshest detractors--the ones who never forgave him for missing four crucial free throws in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals--would concede it's impossible to omit Anderson's name from discussing that era in Magic history. Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal were the superstars, but Anderson was arguably the next-most-important player. And if you're going to mention Dennis freakin' Scott in this conversation, you can't very well overlook Anderson.

    The real question becomes, for our purposes, "was Anderson a 'star' or a 'role player'?" In the year Orlando made its first trip to the Finals, Anderson averaged 15.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.6 steals, while shooting 47.6% from the field and 41.5% from three-point range. All solid numbers, but not enough to justify the "star" label. Thus, for being a starter/role player on a finalist team, he gets 4 points in this category. Onto the next one.

  3. Criterion Three: Statistical Body of Work

    Golliver:

    Ask yourself, "How dominant (and for how long) was this player?"

    In assigning the points in this category, I took into account: league-leading tallies, franchise/league records, double-doubles, 10+ year careers, and anything else that truly jumps out of the box score/ stat sheet.

    One can use any number of words to describe Anderson's playing career, but "dominant" is not one of them. In 10 seasons with the Magic, he averaged 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals, while shooting 45.4% from the field and 36.3% from three-point range. Again, not dominant, but also respectable.

    And, in terms of totals--not averages--he's Orlando's franchise leader in games played, minutes played, points scored, field goals made, field goals attempted, and steals. We also must point out the negative: by virtue of his long tenure, he has the dubious distinction of leading the franchise in the turnovers and personal fouls categories, although Dwight Howard will most assuredly pass him in both early in the coming season.

    So, what's it boil down to? How do we reconcile his modest (by jersey-retirement standards) averages with his franchise-best totals? We split the difference between the two: 3.5 points in this category for Anderson.

  4. Criterion Four: Individual Awards

    Golliver:

    Ask, "What are the standout individual achievements on this player's resume and how do they compare to other franchise greats?"

    We'll discuss this category briefly, and by necessity: it suffices to say that Anderson never won any individual honors during his career. About the best we can say for him on this score is that he was among the league-leaders in three-point field goals made during three separate seasons he spent with Orlando. But no All-Rookie appearances, no All-Star game appearances... nothing. No points for Nick here, sadly.

  5. Criterion Five: The Intangibles

    Golliver:

    This section takes into account the player's personality, contributions to the community and investment in the organization.

    Ask yourself, "Is the player a credit to the organization, the city and the league?"

    [....]

    While this category is certainly subjective, it is only 20% of the overall picture so haggling over a point up or down should not make or break a candidate's application.

    Here, Anderson makes out like a bandit. He's the first draft pick in franchise history, a fan-favorite in his decade with the team, and still in its employ as a Community Ambassador. The list of Magic players Anderson's equal, in terms of popularity in the Central Florida community, is short, and includes Bo Outlaw (also a Community Ambassador), Scott Skiles, Horace Grant, Darrell Armstrong, Howard, and maybe Hedo Turkoglu. O'Neal and Hardaway were popular in their prime, but the decidedly less-than-amiable ways in which they parted with the franchise--O'Neal with his infamous "small pond" comments, Hardaway with his trade demands--have forever diminished their standing in the community.

    Finally, in 1996, Anderson became the first winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award.

    In short, Anderson earns the full 5 points here easily.

Conclusions:

Nick Anderson sustained a high--but not elite--level of play for a decade with the Orlando Magic. He was a key component of their first NBA finalist team, in the franchise's first truly successful stint.

Whether those credentials are enough to merit jersey retirement is up for interpretation. Some people, justifiably, believe that sports franchise should only retire jersey numbers of Hall-of-Fame players. My counter is that jersey retirement honors players for their contributions to a specific franchise, rather than to the sport as a whole; that last bit is the Hall of Fame's responsibility. And, when viewed in this light, Nick Anderson's number 25 jersey absolutely deserves to hang from the rafters of Amway Center when it opens in 2010.

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