In honor of the Magic’s 30th anniversary, we are counting down the top 30 games in franchise history.
It may seem like a lifetime ago considering the team’s current never-ending rebuild, but over the last three decades, there have been quite a few memorable moments in Magic history. Whether it was a crucial playoff victory, a dominant individual performance, or even a devastating loss. Yes, there are actually some Magic losses included in this list. They may bring back painful memories, but they are classic games nonetheless. And there is much more good than bad in this ranking.
So take a trip down memory lane and relive these Magic moments. Also be sure to check out Aaron Goldstone’s ranking of the Top 30 Players in Magic History.
Be sure to share your thoughts and memories below. Let the countdown begin....
30. Down go the champs! (October 13, 1989)
On this date in 1989, the @OrlandoMagic played their first-ever preseason game vs @DetroitPistons #PureMagic pic.twitter.com/ZLrlzQF3zS— Orlando Magic PR (@Magic_PR) October 13, 2015
This one didn’t count in the standings, but it meant quite a bit to the people of Orlando. It was the Magic’s first game in franchise history, a preseason match-up against the defending champions Detroit Pistons. The Magic opened the O-Rena in front of a packed house with a 118-109 win behind 19 points each from Reggie Theus and Terry Catledge. Joe Dumars led the Pistons with 22 points and Isaiah Thomas added 20.
“To the Pistons, it was just another preseason game, but to our fans it was like Game 7 of the NBA Finals,’’ Nick Anderson told reporters. `”The electricity in that building was amazing and our fans really wanted us to win that game.’’
The Magic’s official first victory came a few weeks later when they beat the Knicks, 118-110, on November 6.
29. “The Boston Garden is now closed.” (May 5, 1995)
On this date in 1995, squad closed down the Boston Garden in style. #TBThttps://t.co/fVow4jcOWq— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) May 5, 2016
When the Magic sealed a 95-92 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the 1995 NBA Playoffs, it marked the final game played at the revered Boston Garden, which was in its 67th and final year of operation. Shaquille O’Neal had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Horace Grant had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Penny Hardaway added 10 points and 13 assists as the Magic captured their first playoff series victory in franchise history.
“This building is the best building in history of basketball,” Hardaway told reporters after the game. “This will go a long way, because we were the last team to win here.”
“The Boston Garden is now closed,” said O’Neal.
28. Holy Smit! (May 29, 1995)
A postseason classic that ended in a game-winning buzzer beater by Pacers center RIk Smits. Penny Hardaway drained an off-balance, pull-up three with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Magic a 93-92 lead in Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. Out of a timeout, Smits got Magic back-up center Tree Rollins (Shaq had fouled out) and drained a jumper from the free-throw line as the Pacers evened the series at 2-2.
27. Remember who gave the 72-10 Bulls their first loss? (November 14, 1995)
The Bulls lost only 10 games during the 1995-1996 regular season, and one of them (the first of them) was to the Orlando Magic. Playing for the first time since Orlando eliminated Chicago in the 1995 semifinals, the Magic (5-1) hosted the unbeaten Bulls (5-0). Playing without Shaq, who missed the beginning of the season due to injury, Hardaway scored 36 points to lead the Magic to a 94-88 win over what many now consider the best team in NBA history.
26. Down 24 points to LeBron and the Heat? No problem (March 4, 2011)
It was the second largest comeback by the Magic in team history, but this gets extra points because it came against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Trailing 73-49 in the third, the Magic staged a 40-9 run en route to a 99-96 victory. Jason Richardson led the way with 24 points, including 6 of 8 from three.
“Well, that defies explanation,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of the win after the game.
25. Darrell Armstrong’s steal and layup (March 15, 1999)
With the Magic trailing by one with 3.3 seconds remaining, Darrell Armstrong intercepted an inbounds pass, raced down court and made a layup at the buzzer to give the Magic a 74-73 win over the Sixers. Call it an ugly win with a great ending considering the Magic managed a victory despite shooting just 28.6 percent. Allen Iverson had hit a jumper to give the Sixers a 73-68 lead with 1:09 remaining. The Magic then closed the game on a 6-0 run behind a three by Penny Hardaway, a free throw by Ike Austin and Armstrong’s layup.
24. 3-D’s 11 threes (April 18, 1996)
The final regular season home game in 1996 proved to be a record-breaking night as Dennis Scott drained 11 three-pointers, the most in a single game at the time. Scott made 11 of 17 attempts from three and finished with 35 points to lead the Magic to a 119-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Oddly, the assist on the 11th three was delivered by Brian Shaw, who owned the previous record of 10 threes in 1993. Scott’s record has since been broken and is currently owned by Stephen Curry, who made 13 in a game in 2016.
23. Tobias Harris dunks at the buzzer (February 7, 2014)
There are a few game-winning buzzer beaters by Tobias Harris to choose from, but this one stands out the most. After trailing by 17, the Magic (14-37) managed to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter against the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder (40-12). After the Thunder regained the lead on a three by Thabo Sefolosha with just under two minutes remaining, the Magic found themselves down one when Arron Afflalo missed a runner and Nikola Vucevic missed the ensuing tip-in with about 30 seconds remaining. After Kevin Durant missed a jumper at the other, Victor Oladipo corralled the long rebound and rushed down court. He fed the ball down low to Mo Harkless, who quickly passed to Tobias Harris, whose two-handed dunk just beat the buzzer for a 103-102 Magic win.
22. McGrady keeps the Magic alive (April 28, 2001)
As was the case throughout his career in Orlando, Tracy McGrady had to put the Magic on his back. Down 0-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the best-of-five first round, McGrady tallied 42 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds to help the Magic live to see another day. The Bucks - led by Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell - erased a nine-point Magic lead in the final three minutes to take a one-point advantage with 15.2 seconds left. McGrady then drove the lane and converted the finger roll plus the foul for a three-point play with 8.9 seconds remaining to put the Magic back up two. Out of a timeout, Allen beat Darrell Armstrong off the dribble and dunked over McGrady with 3.5 remaining to send the game to overtime. McGrady scored four points in OT, and also set up Pat Garrity and Dee Brown for threes, to forced Game 4.
21. Hedo for the win (April 26, 2009)
In Game 4 of the first round of the 2009 NBA playoffs, the third-seeded Magic had surrendered a 10-point fourth quarter lead and were in danger of falling behind 3-1 in the series to the sixth-seeded Sixers. With the score tied, Hedo Turkoglu patiently dribbled down the clock before draining a three with 1.1 seconds remaining to lift Orlando to an 84-81 win, evening the series at 2-2. All five Magic starters finished in double figures, led by Dwight Howard, who had 18 points and 18 rebounds. The Magic went on to win the next two games to close out the series en route to the NBA Finals.
Check back soon for Part II of the Magic’s top 30 games!