Orlando made their second addition to the Magic Hall of Fame this season by inducting Jimmy Hewitt, the man largely responsible for landing an NBA team in Central Florida. He joins Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who was inducted earlier this year. Other members include Magic legend Nick Anderson, all-time center Shaquille O’Neal, executive Pat Williams, and owner Rich DeVos.
Hewitt was honored during a small ceremony before Wednesday’s game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as during the game. At the ceremony, he and Williams shared their stories about how the NBA came to Orlando, describing a few chance meetings that eventually led to Hewitt meeting with then-commissioner David Stern, and eventually going on to assemble a group of friends and businessmen to put together the $32.5 million expansion fees.
An early but important part of the tale was Hewitt’s insistence that Orlando was the place to put a pro basketball team. In a car ride to the airport in 1985, Williams offhandedly asked Hewitt whether he thought Tampa or Miami was a better place for an NBA expansion team. Hewitt vehemently disagreed with either option, explaining at length that Orlando was better than either of them. Williams suggested he ought to get a meeting with Stern, but when he got on the plane, he never expected to hear from Hewitt again.
It was only a week before Hewitt called Williams to tell him that the meeting with Stern was scheduled. After that meeting went well, Hewitt did everything he could to prepare Orlando for a possible expansion, meeting with business owners and city officials, preparing an arena, and even getting the Orlando Sentinel to help put together the official proposal. The efforts finally paid off when Orlando was awarded the expansion team in 1987.
Also present at the ceremony was DeVos, who offered his own perspective on Hewitt’s efforts surrounding the team when DeVos became the new owner a few years into the Magic’s existence.
Without Hewitt, and Williams, we wouldn’t have what is known as the Magic now, and wouldn’t be able to enjoy NBA basketball in the city beautiful. Thank you to Hewitt for his major contributions to the organization, and the league.
This honor is very well deserved.