Posted by Melanie Curtsinger, Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 2:45 PM

Leader of the Pack

At any given time, with 15 players per roster, there are 450 players under contract in the National Basketball Association. One of those coveted spots has belonged to Jameer Nelson for the past eight years; and while that makes Nelson a veteran in the NBA, it also makes him a true unique commodity in the fact that each of those eight seasons, and the ninth that he is currently in, have been with the same team. To further prove the uniqueness of his stay in Orlando, take this into account: of those 450 players, Nelson is tied for 10th in the league for most seasons with his current team.

The term “loyalty” is one that is often thrown around, but taking into account that Nelson has been a part of this Orlando Magic organization longer than anyone else on the roster is as much of a kudos to him as it is to the team for re-signing him. In fact, in the Magic’s 24-year history, only three other players have been a part of as many seasons in a Magic uniform as Nelson, and their names will probably all ring a bell for fans – Nick Anderson (10), Darrell Armstrong (9) and Pat Garrity (9).

When Nelson announced this summer on Twitter that he had reached an agreement to return to Orlando, he was instantly flooded with congratulatory messages, and still to this day he says that Magic fans continue to show him love for sticking with the team he has been with since NBA Draft night in 2004.

“It feels great,” Nelson said about the fan support. “From day one, I’m not big on tweeting or Twitter or anything like that, but I was congratulated by so many people and thanked because of my loyalty. Even though it’s a business, you still have to have some loyalty to the people that are loyal to you.”

Nelson’s sense of loyalty and his leadership within the Orlando Magic organization has evolved over time. Once part of a dynamic duo with Dwight Howard, Nelson is now co-captains with Glen Davis, and he has found that his role as a team leader is one that has taken on a new meaning this season.

“I feel like more of a leader. I feel more not necessarily pressure, but just on me to lead,” Nelson said. “I don’t feel like I have to go make all the plays or make all the shots or even play the greatest every night, but I do feel like I have to lead every night.”

Nelson’s impact on the court was evident when he suffered a groin injury against the Denver Nuggets during the season opener and was forced to miss five games. One look at the stats shows his importance to the team – with Nelson, Orlando is 4-4; without him, they are 1-4. With Nelson, Orlando averages 95.9 points, compared to 85.0 points without him. And even though his numbers haven’t drifted far from years past, (as of Nov. 27, he is averaging 12.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game), Nelson insists his role is different this year.

“It’s different because you have such a big difference in age in the young guys and the vets. We as vets have taken on a different role and are allowed to help the coach teach. It’s a different role, but it’s fun as well. One day I would like to coach, and it’s another step in my career that is allowing me to progress as a man and as a player.”

While Nelson’s playing days are far from over, he does admit that he is looking towards the future, which he hopes includes a position within the Magic in the front office or as a coach. And although he still has a ways to go to catch up to the top of the list of players who have been with their teams the longest (Kobe Bryant leads the way with 17 seasons with the Lakers), Nelson hopes to keep adding years to his tenure right here in Central Florida throughout his remaining playing days.

“I would like to (finish my career in Orlando),” Nelson said. “Hopefully they see me as somebody that can stay here forever.”