It’s been a long time.
In fact, Sunday will mark eleven years exactly since the Orlando Magic last laced them up on Christmas Day.
That particular contest, a 97-89 defeat at the hands of the rising Oklahoma City Thunder, was essentially a precursor to the Dwightmare that would engulf much of the team’s next twelve months. Not exactly a treasured memory.
In other years, however, the Magic were a much more enticing proposition. Shaq and Penny were there for the franchise’s holiday debut back in 1993, eventually helping the team pick up its first Christmas win two seasons later in a Finals rematch against the Rockets.
Tracy McGrady whipped up a trio of Yuletide miracles across the early 2000s, including a victory over a young LeBron James in 2003 during the phenom’s first appearance on the league’s showcase slate.
Even the Dwight-era Magic had some holiday highlights, with a defensive suffocation of Chris Paul’s Hornet’s in 2008 and a nice comeback against KG, Paul Pierce and the Celtics in 2010.
Although the Magic don’t feature on this year’s holiday schedule, there are still plenty of games that promise to be worth finding the time for. The Knicks, like Orlando, have recently been riding a hot streak, and will be keen to measure themselves against the star-studded 76ers. They’ll start the game as a 2.0 point home underdog but like their chances.
Just last week the Celtics surrendered their home court to Orlando in a pair of back-to-back losses, part of a swoon that has seen them slip from their perch at the top of the East. Their showdown with the Bucks figures to settle a measure of conference supremacy at this still early juncture, the oddsmakers at DraftKings giving Boston the benefit of the doubt and installing them as 4.5 point favorites prior to tip-off.
The Western Conference matchups feature a slew of league heavyweights, with LeBron, Luka, Ja, Jokic and Booker headlining a healthy list of players with the potential to emerge as the day’s dominant star.
Orlando won’t be a part of the Christmas landscape in 2022. However, with the dynamic Paolo Banchero putting up buckets and the incisive Franz Wagner controlling possessions – and the prospect of soon adding even more high-level talent via either the draft, trade or free agency – there’s every chance that the team continues its upward trajectory in the years to come. Such an outcome would force the NBA world to take notice.
If that happens – when that happens – the pinstriped faithful will be ready to once again make Orlando Magic basketball the centerpiece of their Christmas celebrations.
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