On certain Magic off-days, we will pose a question that we hope will spark a friendly debate in the comments section. Topics will range from who should be starting for the Magic, to which Magic jersey is the best of all-time, to whether Aaron Gordon should be posting up more often, to the worst contract in Magic history, to whatever other Magic-related question comes to mind. All opinions and topic suggestions are welcome!
It was 25 years ago yesterday that Shaquille O’Neal made his NBA debut, wearing his white pinstriped No. 32 Magic jersey.
O’Neal of course would spend just four seasons with Orlando before abandoning a team seemingly destined for greatness to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now that more than two decades have passed since O’Neal left for Hollywood - and the relationship between O’Neal and the organization and fans seems mostly repaired - is it time for the Magic to retire his No. 32?
Doing so would honor the player who put the Orlando Magic on the map and give the organization its first official retired number. While the Magic did retire No. 6 for the fans (and unretired it briefly for Patrick Ewing), they remain one of the few teams in the NBA that don’t have a former player’s number preserved throughout history (the Clippers, Raptors, and Grizzlies are the others -- though Memphis has announced it will retire Zach Randolph’s No. 50).
Those arguing against Shaq having his number retired in Orlando will say that he played just four seasons, left a highly-successful and popular team at their pinnacle and spent the prime of his career winning championships elsewhere.
Shaq's departure is arguably the biggest free agent loss in sports history, especially now that LeBron James has made up for originally leaving Cleveland by bringing a championship to the city. So it’s hard for Orlando to honor O'Neal after he essentially left the team in ruins. That in itself warrants the Magic handing over No. 32 to the next guy they call up from the G-League.
To combat that, those who are in favor of Orlando retiring O’Neal’s number might point to what he did while he was in town.
In his four seasons with the Magic, he guided the team to two 50-plus win seasons, one 60-win season, two Eastern Conference Finals appearances, and a spot in the NBA Finals. He is among the franchise leaders in many statistical categories:
Fifth in points: 8,019
Third in field goals made: 3,208
Third in total rebounds: 3,691
Second in blocks: 824
Second in field goal percentage: 58.1 percent
Second in points per game: 28.1
Second in rebounds per game: 12.5
First in blocks per game: 2.8
First in PER: 26.6
The Magic already acknowledged Shaq’s impact on the organization, having inducted him into the Magic Hall of Fame at Amway Center in 2015.
As for his short stint in Orlando, some might argue that there are many players that have their numbers retired by teams for which they played less than five seasons. It’s a list that includes Charles Barkley with the Suns, Clyde Drexler with the Rockets, Wilt Chamberlain with the 76ers, Julius Erving with the Nets, and, most recently, Dikembe Mutumbo with the Hawks.
Oh, and another would be O’Neal himself.
The Miami Heat retired Shaq’s No. 32 despite the fact that he played just three and a half seasons with the team before being traded. Yes, he won a title in Miami. But in terms of regular season games played, O’Neal played 205 games on Miami and 295 games on Orlando.
If Orlando were to retire Shaq’s number, it would be rather historic. It’s rare for an NBA player to have his number retired by two teams – by my count it is 12, including Shaq, who of course also had his No. 34 retired by the Lakers, and not including Michael Jordan, who had his No. 23 retired by the Heat for his contributions to basketball.
But a player having his number retired by three organizations that he played for has happened just once before: Wilt Chamberlain by the Warriors, Lakers and 76ers.
Since Shaq’s free agency defection following the 1995-1996 season, three members of the Magic have worn No. 32, according to Basketball Reference. Jeremy Richardson, who spent all of 12 games with the team, was the first to do so in 2008. Next was Justin Harper, who spent 14 games with the Magic during the 2011-2012 season. And most recently was C.J. Watson, who just last season wore the No. 32 for 62 games.
Is it time for Orlando to ensure that no player wears it again by raising Shaq’s No. 32 to the rafters? Join the debate below.