Less than one month separates us from the start of the Orlando Magic’s 2022-23 season. For the franchise, this will be its 34th season.
Short of an NBA title, the Magic have accomplished many things throughout their history. We continue a three-part series by looking back on some franchise firsts.
The second part will focus on individual awards and recognitions:
First All-Star: Shaquille O’Neal, C (1992-93)
The first Orlando Magic player to be chosen as an All-Star was center Shaquille O’Neal as a rookie. O’Neal would make the NBA All-Star Game in each of his four seasons with the Magic. As a rookie during the 1992-93 season, O’Neal averaged better than 23 points and nearly 14 rebounds per game. In his first All-Star Game, O’Neal tallied 14 points and seven rebounds as the Western Conference topped the Eastern Conference in overtime, 135-132. Since O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and Nikola Vucevic have all been selected to represent the Magic in the NBA All-Star Game.
First MVP: N/A
In addition to winning the NBA Finals, having a league MVP is another one of the few things the Orlando Magic have not accomplished. Shaquille O’Neal (1994-95) and Dwight Howard (2011-12) each finished as runners-up.
First Rookie of the Year: Shaquille O’Neal, C (1992-93)
In the same season that he was named Orlando’s first NBA All-Star, Shaquille O’Neal became the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year. O’Neal finished the season averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game while shooting 56% from the field. That season, the Magic nearly doubled their win total, going from 21-61 to 41-41. The only other Orlando player to be recognized as Rookie of the Year was forward Mike Miller during the 2000-01 season.
First Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, C (2008-09)
Dwight Howard is not just the only Orlando Magic player to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, but he’s the only player in NBA history to win it in three straight seasons. Howard’s incredible athleticism and ability to alter shots made him a menace for opposing offenses. During the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, Howard led the NBA in blocks and rebounds per game each season. Howard finished fourth in blocks the following season, but that didn’t keep him from three-peating.
First Sixth Man of the Year: Darrell Armstrong, G (1998-99)
As is the case with Defensive Player of the Year, Darrell Armstrong is the only player in Orlando Magic history to win Sixth Man of the Year. A fan favorite during his time in Orlando, Armstrong was known for his enthusiasm for the game, big heart, and hustle. During the NBA lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Armstrong averaged nearly 14 points, nearly seven assists, and more than two steals as a reserve while the Magic finished 33-17. The following season, Armstrong started all 82 games.
First Most Improved Player: Scott Skiles, G (1990-91)
An original member of the Orlando Magic, Scott Skiles took his game to new heights in the team’s second season and was recognized as the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Entering that season, Skiles had never averaged more than 7.7 points per game. During the 1990-91 campaign, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 17.2 points, 8.4 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 41% from deep. That season, Skiles broke the NBA single-game assist record with 30 in a home victory over the Denver Nuggets. That record still stands. First awarded during the 1985-86 season, no team has had more players win Most Improved Player than the Orlando Magic and only the Indiana Pacers have had as many. In addition to Skiles, Darrell Armstrong, Tracy McGrady, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Anderson have all taken home the hardware.
First Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers (1999-00)
Doc Rivers remains the only Orlando Magic coach to win the NBA Coach of the Year Award and he did so during a season in which the Magic didn’t even finish with a winning record. In what was thought to be a rebuilding year, Rivers’ “Heart and Hustle” team finished an even 41-41 and stayed in the playoff hunt until the final days of the 1999-00 regular season. Although he never won a playoff series, Rivers guided Orlando to the postseason in each of the next three years. He was fired after a 1-10 start to the 2003-04 season, but would later win a championship with the Boston Celtics.