When the news broke that the Orlando Magic would add Shaquille O'Neal to their team-centric Hall of Fame at Amway Center, fans met it with a mixed reaction. Some of them were behind it, supporting the team's decision to add one of their top-five players in franchise history. Others weren't so thrilled, with one fan going as far as to create a Facebook page telling people to "vote no for Shaq in Magic Hall of Fame."
Despite the mixed reactions, the Magic hit this one square on the head: adding O'Neal is not only the right thing to do, but it's the best thing that they could've done. With the team appearing to have a long checklist to warrant retiring a player's jersey, putting O'Neal into their Hall of Fame right now shows their appreciation for what he accomplished with the organization, and how much of an impact he did have in his four-year stay in the City Beautiful.
With the team growing in the early 1990's thanks to having back-to-back first overall picks, O'Neal helped put the Magic on the basketball map. His dominance down low was a big part of it, but the perimeter play from Nick Anderson--one of the Magic's first two Hall inductees, along with Pat Williams--Anfernee Hardaway and Dennis Scott played equally big roles. Hardaway and Scott--who were both honored during the team's 25th anniversary celebrations in the 2013/14 season--will undoubtedly be joining both O'Neal and Anderson in the Hall of Fame down the road.
In his 295 games over four Orlando seasons, O'Neal blossomed into one of the most dominant big men in the entire NBA. His 27.2 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game were highs for any team he played with. Add in the fact that he helped carry the Magic to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1995, and you have someone who is a lock for the team's Hall of Fame. Back in 2013, our very own Mike from Illinois took a more in-depth look at just how dominant O'Neal was during his brief tenure in Orlando.
O'Neal's departure for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 may have been one that left a sour taste in many mouths, but his impact on the franchise is one that runs deep and forever will be important. Without O'Neal, there's no telling what could've happened with basketball in Orlando.
The Magic's decision to induct O'Neal into their Hall of Fame will be unpopular with some folks. However, others will look at it and appreciate what O'Neal was able to bring to the franchise and just how impactful he was not only in Orlando, but the NBA as a whole during his career.
Now isn't the time to dwell on the rough times that O'Neal may have brought to the team. Now is the time to celebrate and honor him for being one of the most important and influential people in the franchise's history.