On SB Nation NBA Most Hyped day, we've already heard from Mike From Illinois about Shaquille O`Neal and from Tyler Lashbrook about Tracy McGrady. There's no question that those two titans are among the most-hyped players in Orlando Magic history. But the Magic have, in their 25-year history, had several players who came to the team with a lot of hype. But which of them was the most hyped? We're asking you to weigh in via the poll in this post.
Here are the contenders:
Mike has already illustrated Shaq's dominance in Orlando, so I don't want to belabor the point, but there's no denying that he arrived in the City Beautiful surrounded by hype. In three seasons at LSU, O'Neal averaged 21.6 points, 13.5 boards, and 4.6 blocks on 61 percent shooting. As the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, he joined a Magic franchise which had never won more than 31 games in a single season. And Shaq was a force of nature off the court as well, with an outsized personality that lent itself to endorsements and television appearances.
One year after landing O'Neal and nearly securing a playoff spot--Orlando and the Indiana Pacers finished with identical 41-41 records, but the Pacers got the East's final seed by dint of a tiebreaker--the Magic lucked into Hardaway, a 6-foot-7 point guard who could dominate both ends of the floor. The Magic initially won the Draft Lottery and selected Chris Webber, but traded his rights to Hardaway, the third pick, giving them transcendent players at the league's two most crucial positions. Hardaway was coming off a college career in which he averaged 20 points, 7.7 boards, 5.9 assists, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks.
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Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady
Thanks to a series of shrewd moves by general manager John Gabriel, the Magic entered the 2000 free-agent period with enough salary-cap space to sign two franchise-changing stars to max-value contracts. After narrowly missing out on Tim Duncan, Gabriel came away with Hill and McGrady, two dynamic wings in vastly different stages of their careers.
In his first six seasons, Hill had averaged 21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.6 steals and had made five All-Star teams. McGrady, 21, had averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in his third season playing in the shadow of Vince Carter with the Toronto Raptors.
In 2004, the Magic won the Draft Lottery for the third time in their history. Their selection of Howard, an 18-year-old prospect from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, surprised some NBA analysts, who expected them to go with the more proven, and significantly older, Connecticut center Emeka Okafor.
Howard didn't have the same hype as O'Neal or Hardaway, but as a former top overall pick, he warrants inclusion on this list.
The Magic had just one playoff appearance after three seasons with Howard, but Otis Smith managed to clear enough cap space to once again make the team a significant factor in free agency. He landed Lewis, the most sought-after free agent in his class, with a maximum-valued contract. In the three seasons prior to signing with Orlando, Lewis averaged 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, two assists, and 2.2 three-pointers per game on 39.7 percent shooting from deep.
Lewis had just one All-Star appearance to his credit prior to signing with Orlando, so fans and analysts criticized Smith for his splurging. However, Lewis was to give the Magic their first great perimeter scorer since McGrady's departure, and at age 28, he was in the prime of his career. The Magic--who, we must remember, hadn't won a playoff series since 1996--wanted to contend for titles again, so they spent away.
So, which of these players do you think is the most hyped? Vote in the poll and explain your choice in the comments.