How cool is this? I’m still getting used to the fact that I was given an unbelievable opportunity to share some of my thoughts about the Orlando Magic amongst so many passionate fans and talented writers. I want to officially thank Zach, and really the whole OPP community, for the support over the years.
When Zach and I discussed topics for my first piece, I felt the most appropriate theme to focus on was a “community building” article, something that involved the entire Orlando Pinstriped Post Community in which I’ve been a part of and come to respect.
With the Draft and Free Agency behind us, we are all suffering along through the doldrums of the tail end of the 2016 NBA offseason. The typical offseason pieces pertaining to the depth chart or projected minutes for players on the roster next season are fine, but they get a bit monotonous without actual basketball being played. Rather, I thought why not share a little about myself and my Orlando Magic fandom as well as embolden others to do the same.
I encourage and invite everyone to share in the comments section of this article the moment when you first realized you were a fan of the Orlando Magic, your All-Time favorite Magic player, your All-Time favorite Magic(al) moment, and your favorite Orlando Magic jersey you’ve ever owned. I’ve seen this type of Community sharing and storytelling done on other SB Nation sites, so without further ado…
The moment when I first realized I was a fan of the Orlando Magic: April 20th, 1990
I was six years old during Orlando’s inaugural 1989 season. There are a lot of important happenings in the life of a six year-old, watching NBA basketball on TV isn’t usually one of them. I was raised in a baseball household, my family consists of fanatical New York Mets fans. I was raised watching Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, and co. on the diamond of Shea Stadium.
My uncle had Magic season tickets that first season, but he usually brought clients, friends, or really anyone older than six along with him. However, I got to tag along with him for the last home game of the ’89-’90 season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I still to this day remember taking it all in; the smell of popcorn in the crowded corridors of the O-Rena, meeting Stuff (without a doubt, one of the best mascots in professional sports), the parquet floor, the fireworks during introductions, and those perfect pinstriped uniforms. The Magic lost that particular night, it happened to be their fifteenth loss in a row! I certainly didn’t notice or care, I actually had to look up the score years later. I was hooked.
My all-time favorite Magic player: Tracy McGrady
I’m a proud graduate of the University of Central Florida. I spent the better part of six years (I took my time and enjoyed myself, I wish it would have been seven or eight years) in Orlando in the early 2000’s. My dad had a 10-game ticket plan for a couple seasons back then. Going to Magic games was a really nice way for us to spend time together, bond, and ultimately go to dinner (college = anything for free food). Anyway, one random night in March of 2004, my dad couldn’t make it to Orlando so I brought a date with me. Magic vs. Wizards; pretty good date-night, or at least I thought it was. I probably wasn’t very chivalrous or attentive once the game got going, not that particular night. Tracy McGrady went for an Orlando record 62 points, and the team needed every one of them. Well actually, we could have used two more. The Magic finished with 108 points that game, 110 points would have gotten my date and I a free steak quesadilla from Taco Bell. I didn’t hold it against Tracy McGrady.
I don’t know if it was McGrady’s tendency to miss games due to various injuries (in Houston), or his lack of success in the playoffs, but his overall career is not respected nearly enough around NBA circles. McGrady was simply the most gifted offensive player to ever wear an Orlando Magic uniform. He has two NBA scoring titles to back up that claim, and from 2002-2004, there wasn’t a more exciting player in the NBA to watch.
My all-time favorite Magic(al) moment: Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Final
To be honest, I didn’t have a whole lot of personal responsibilities in 2009. I was just starting to learn how to “adult”, but this was still before my wife, kids, a mortgage payment, etc. I was finishing my second year of teaching during the Magic’s playoff run in ’08-’09. The Cleveland series had me especially glued to the television, it was must see TV. With a 3-2 series lead, and a series clinching home game on the horizon, I decided on a whim that I had to be there. In fact, I went ahead and bought tickets to Game 6 for me and two other friends. Carpe Diem, right (definitely no room in the budget for that kind of spontaneity today)? Man was it worth it. I will never forget LeBron racing off the court, going down to the floor to take pictures, or the “Blue and White Ignite” t-shirts.
Later that night, my group got larger as we met up with some old-college friends downtown to celebrate at a local establishment. Being in the moment, I just reveled at the joy from fans in that bar, the chanting, the massive Hedo banner hanging on the nearby building, just everything. For whatever reason, I was moved to grab what I thought was a broom at the time, climb up on that bar, and scream “SWEEP L.A, SWEEP L.A.” and I swung the object around in circles above my head. It wasn’t a broom. I was soaking everyone with this squeegee that the bartenders used to take care of spilled beverages. That was the first (and still the only) bar I’ve ever been “kindly” asked to leave from.
My all-time favorite Orlando Magic jersey: Penny Hardaway (BLUE
If you’re close to my age, you were in elementary school or middle school during the Orlando Magic glory days of the mid-‘90’s. I say that because I stopped wearing jerseys once I got to high school, but in middle school – they were my entire wardrobe. The ’95 Orlando Magic were The Beatles of the NBA, I couldn’t get enough of those guys. I had their jerseys, I had the replica shorts. I could’ve worn a different Magic jersey every day of the week. In fact, I did. It was some sort of rotation of the white Horace #54, the black Shaq #32, the black Dennis Scott #3. But my Friday jersey, my all-time favorite jersey, was the blue #1 of non-other than Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. I couldn’t wear that jersey and not feel good.
So there you have it. I realize now (even as I write this) that various moments in my life have always been intertwined with the Orlando Magic organization. Now I invite you to share below in the comments section your personal favorites, your stories, your memories, etc. pertaining to the Orlando Magic. I think this type of community building exercise can really be beneficial for all of us heading into next season. It can bring more understanding to the community, which can hopefully lead to more worthwhile discussions than just your typical “was Tobias Harris above-average or just meh” debates. You can follow my format if you wish: First memory of fandom, favorite player, favorite moment, favorite jersey. I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s stories, comments, and of course the 2016-17 season.