An Introduction to the Be There Blog
By Marc D'Amico

Twenty years is a milestone number celebrated in so many different areas of life. Marriage, service, graduation and even turning 20 years old are just a few examples. To reach twenty years in anything, hard work and commitment are necessary from everyone involved.

This year, the Orlando Magic celebrate their 20th year as the heart of Central Florida sports. With 20 years behind the organization, memories are plentiful and thank you's are owed. But while celebrating such a successful past, the Magic organization is proud to display their optimism toward the future.

This year is about all who have come through the doors of Amway arena and all of those who will enter the Orlando Events Center. It is about savoring the 10 playoff appearances in 19 years but salivating over the NBA championship the team aims to soon bring home. It's about the players and coaches, the front office, the entire staff and the fans that have all bled blue since day one in 1989.

All of these things are what make the Magic unique; different from every other NBA franchise or professional sports team. These are the things that make the Magic a success both on and off the court. And these are the things we plan to highlight for you throughout the season.

As the season approaches and then begins, will be bringing you features and articles about people, moments, comparisons and the Magic’s bright future that you may have never known or thought about. This is our way of celebrating 20 years in Orlando, and this is your way to get even closer to the organization.

Check in right here every week this season for newly updated features.

Celebrate 20 years of history and take a look into the future here with us at

By Dan Dugger | April 9, 2009

Magic Striving to Go From Good to Great

ORLANDO, FLA. – On my flight back to Orlando from attending a disheartening Final Four in Detroit (Michigan State alum…) I was reading the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Within the magnificently researched and well-written book directed towards the business-minded individual, was a quote at the onset of one of the chapters that got me thinking about our Magic squad.

“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman

Considering the Magic’s current makeup of players, President Truman’s quote is beyond fitting.

No players are griping about not reaching their quota of shots-per game.

No one individual is selfishly demanding the ball down the stretch.

Players are even considered a little too unselfish at times by Head Coach Stan Van Gundy.

It’s the recipe of a financially-efficient team constructed by club architect Otis Smith, which has Orlando on the transition path from good to great.

While the NBA Playoffs aren’t as discriminatory as Major League Baseball (only eight total teams make the postseason) Orlando does have something to hang their collective caps on: the often-overlooked and underestimated Magic are headed to the postseason for the third consecutive year and by the time they arrive, they may have recorded the best record in franchise history.

Orlando is currently 58-20, a mere three wins away from breaking the franchise record for victories in the regular season (1995-96, 60-22). The Magic have four games remaining, all against non-playoff teams, so a record-setting season is not out of the question.

From the commencement of the season, the unifying mantra of this team has been to, “win a championship.”

With a combined record of 6-3 against the Cavaliers, Celtics and Lakers this season, Orlando has proven they can and will beat anyone in the league. Yet, the club strives to beat everyone, regardless if the roster has a Kobe, KG or King James on it.

Coaching the Magic to back-to-back 50-plus win/Southeast Division title seasons, Van Gundy has proven he can coach with anyone in the league. Yet, he probably cares more about having a cold Diet Pepsi in his hand and an extensive scouting report in his back pocket than a Coach-of-the-Year award on his mantle.

Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis all made the All-Star Team, not by any fancy, gimmicky campaigning, rather, simply based on incredible production and popularity. Yet, the trio would trade their All-Star accolades for a championship ring in an instant.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins profiles some of the world’s most financially sound and accomplished companies. The necessary trait they all share?

Leaders who have humility.

Similarly, the Magic have a team made up of humble players. Players who would rather share the glory than be praised individually. Athletes who would rather be world champions than a most valuable player.

An eclectic collection of guys who’ve come straight from high school, college or the international basketball scene, the Magic share a common goal of transitioning from good to great.

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Dan Dugger | March 18, 2009

20 Magical Moments: Dwight Dunks the Spurs and T-Mac Splashes in 62

Upon entering/exiting the Orlando Magic’s corporate office, visitors and employees alike are greeted by a poster of Dwight Howard dunking the game winning basket against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 with just under one second left on the clock. The monstrous mural covers 72-square feet.

But as opponents and fans have come to find out, Howard’s on-the-court contributions are immeasurable, including the aforementioned unforgettable finish against the Spurs.

With the game knotted at 104 and .8 seconds left on the clock, Hedo Turkoglu patiently waited on the scorer’s-table sideline to commence the execution of the magnificently drawn up play.

After setting a right-elbow screen for a curling Jameer Nelson, Howard slipped back door on veteran Tim Duncan who made an uncharacteristic mistake of turning his back to his man (Howard).

With surgeon-like precision, Turkoglu placed the pass perfectly to the left of the rim, where only Howard - eyes nearly parallel to the rim - could finish it.

“We’ve been working on that play a lot in practice,” Howard said after the win. “And with God’s help, we made the play.”

After serving as a decoy to allow Howard to slip the screen, Nelson watched the poster-i-zation take place from just beyond the basket.

“Nobody can get up there with Dwight,” Nelson added.

And nobody, has matched the franchise-record-setting point production that former Magic guard Tracy McGrady recorded in 2004.

Another one of the 20 Magical Moments, T-Mac’s 62-point outing against the Washington Wizards remains unmatched. Since, no Magic player has even crossed the 50-point-scoring threshold in a game, let alone flirting with 62.

McGrady buried 54 percent of his shots, including 5-of-14 from downtown.

"My teammates came to me and told me to get 60,” said McGrady who hit 19 of his first 26 shots in the win. “Then they told me to get 70.”

Said current Magic guard and then-McGrady teammate Tyronn Lue: "Tracy was rolling and we were just trying to get him the ball. It was one of those nights that he knew that he was feeling it."

While McGrady’s feat is increasingly becoming a distant memory amidst the point totals players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have recently recorded, Howard’s heroic dunk against the Spurs will go down as one of the best buzzer-beaters in Magic – if not NBA – history.

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | March 12, 2009

Magic advance to the 1995 NBA Finals

With an All-Star caliber cast led by Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway, and Nick Anderson, the Orlando Magic found themselves in an unfamiliar position. These young stars and the rest of the Orlando Magic team put the City Beautiful on the NBA map and propelled the franchise to the 1995 NBA Finals.

The Magic compiled a total of 57 wins during the 1994-95 season and were lead by O’Neal who averaged 29.3 points for the season.

In the first round of the ‘1995 playoffs, the Magic were set to face the Boston Celtics. During the first game of the series the Magic claimed an overwhelming victory, beating the Celtics 124-77. The Magic ended the series in the Boston Garden playing in what would later be the final two basketball games ever played in the venue.

During the second round of the playoffs, the Magic faced the Chicago Bulls in an action-packed series. The Bulls were ready to come out firing after the return of arguably the best NBA player in history, Michael Jordan. But even Jordan couldn’t phase the Magic’s confidence, as they went on to win the series in just a mere six games.

After the Bulls series, the Magic were now in the final stretch in becoming Eastern Conference champions and reaching their first ever NBA Finals. The franchise faced the Indiana Pacers in a hard fought battle that took the entire seven games, with each team winning every game at home, before eventually being crowned the Eastern Conference Champions on June 4, 1995.

The 1994-1995 NBA Champion was now down to either the Houston Rockets or the Orlando Magic in a series that was considered to be a battle of two of the best centers in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Magic started their quest towards a championship with two games at home. Late in Game One, the Magic were up by three when Kenny Smith hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime. The Rockets prevailed in the extra period and went on to eventually win both games in Orlando to send the series back to their turf in Houston.

The Rockets never looked back as they went on to win the series in a four-game sweep. Despite the loss, however, the Magic will forever have a banner hanging in Amway Arena proclaiming them as Eastern Conference Champions. And as the 2008-09 season progresses, this Orlando Magic squad will be looking to add another banner next to it.

Ali Kicklighter is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Dan Dugger | March 6, 2009

The Gem of Van Gundy’s Coaching Staff

The most distinguishable face on Stan Van Gundy’s coaching staff is easily first ballot Hall-of-Famer and former Magic big man, Patrick Ewing. Widely considered to be a head-coach-in-waiting, Ewing spent 17 seasons in the NBA, playing in 1,183 career games with three franchises.

Not so recognizable, is Magic assistant coach Brendan Malone.

A seasoned NBA veteran coach of nearly a quarter century, Malone has worked for seven league teams and won a pair of World Championships with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990 under Head Coach Chuck Daly. In 1995, Malone served as the first-ever head coach of the expansion Toronto Raptors.

Yet, with tremendous experience under his belt, two championship rings, an envied coaching resume and thick New York accent, Malone doesn’t envision retirement anytime soon.

“Coaching is something I’ve done for a long time,” said Malone, whose youngest son, Michael is an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “When I was out of coaching, scouting for a year and a half for Cleveland, I was experiencing withdrawal, because it was a way of life for me for a long time.

“I’ve been coaching since the mid 1960s in historic Queens (New York). It’s just a way of life for me. It’s just part of my life and if I’m away from it, I’m completely bored. Even when I was scouting, I wasn’t coaching.”

For Malone, like most intricately involved with the game, it’s the emotional high of winning that keeps him longing for more.

“Nothing that you do in basketball, other than playing, comes close to the euphoria of a big win,” explains Malone, who religiously studies game tape and uses his wealth of basketball wisdom to help exploit opponents. “And a lot of people don’t understand that.”

And a lot of people don’t understand the value that Brendan Malone brings to the Orlando Magic bench.

Hopefully now, you’ve got an idea.

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | February 26, 2009

Alston Brings Magic Back to Orlando

Everything seems like its slowly starting to come back together for the Magic at the right time. With newly acquired Rafer Alston, the Magic look as if they are well on their way to playing their best when it matters the most, the playoffs.

After losing starting point guard Jameer Nelson, the Magic found themselves questioning what would be the missing piece to their puzzle. As the trade deadline approached, General Manager Otis Smith was in the works to acquire someone who could bring something magical to Orlando.

Smith picked up Alston from the Rockets in a three-way trade that would give Houston Brian Cook while sending Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks and a 2009 first round draft pick to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing in just a few games in a Magic uniform, it is clear Alston is comfortable in his new role and fully equipped to take the Magic to a completely new level. and the BE THERE Blog recently caught up with Alston to find out how he likes Orlando and the Magic so far.

1. What do you like most about the city of Orlando so far?
“The people are really friendly, I love the people.”

2. What do you like most about the Magic?
“Everyone helps you here; they have made it such a smooth transition. You don’t get that at every other organization in the league. You can just really concentrate on the game and all the other things that just come with living and being in the city as a team, they will take care of that for you.”

3. What are your expectations for the team now that you have arrived?
“Win a championship, that’s the only expectation. Go far and deep in the playoffs and hopefully win a championship.”

4. What was the first thing that came to your mind when you found out you got traded to Orlando?
“I was excited. I was going to get my own plane ticket to get out here that night but they told me to wait until the next morning.”

5. What do you think is the main difference between the Magic and the Rockets?
“I think they are a more alive and upbeat group of guys than Houston. Everyone is full of life here and it wasn’t like that there.”

6. What did you learn from playing ball in New York that you still carry with you?
“I learned to compete every night and to be tough. You have to learn to not let anything bother you out there on the floor. That helps not letting anything, especially the crowd and what anybody says, bother you.”

Ali Kicklighter is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Marc D'Amico | February 19, 2009

Dwight's on a mission

It can probably be referred to as coincidental, if not magical, that the Orlando Magic were setting franchise records left and right throughout the first half of their 20th anniversary season. The team was clicking on all cylinders and seemed unbeatable for the majority of the 51 games prior to the All-Star break.

But when Jameer Nelson ran into Erick Dampier and promptly hit the deck on February 2, everything seemed to change.

The first-time All-Star point guard had been pressing defenses like never before. With his ability to dribble-drive and run the pick-and-roll, combined with his blazing 50.3 percent shooting from the floor, Nelson made defending the Magic offense harder than putting out a forest fire. It was nearly impossible.

Now, the orchestrator of their high-powered offense is sidelined indefinitely with a torn labrum and is possibly done for the season. With that kink in the Magic armor, the offensive dynamic has changed dramatically and shooting percentages this month are the lower than any other full month of play this season.

So how will the Magic continue their record-setting pace for the remainder of the season?

This ship is going to stay afloat because of one man: Dwight Howard.

He is the most dominant big man in basketball and has the unique ability to alter games with three separate facets of his game. He can score in the post and demand double- and triple-teams; he is the leading rebounder in the NBA; he is the top shot blocker in the league and has had two games of at least eight blocks this season.

Simply put, there is no other player like Howard in this league. His coach realizes that, and that’s why he’s going to lean harder than ever on the fifth-year center for the final 28 games of the regular season.

Monday afternoon, Stan Van Gundy said the following when discussing what the Magic must do in the second half of the season to offset Nelson’s absence: “First off, it starts with (Howard) with his effort and his energy. He’s got to dominate in those areas every night. He’s got to dominate defensively and on the boards. Whether it’s coming to help block shots or defending pick-and-rolls, he’s capable of doing that. There is nothing another team can do that can keep him from dominating defensively or on both boards.”

In other words, Van Gundy believes Howard can be unstoppable every single night. Literally.

And he didn’t stop there. The Magic head coach went on to say, “He can always run the floor and there is nothing anybody can do about that. Those areas are where it needs to start with him and it needs to be on a nightly basis. Offensively, it’s a matter of being aggressive, but also being smart and making the right play. They can come down and double every possession of the game if they want. And if so, he may have to throw it out every single time. That’s what he’s got to do."

That’s what he’s got to do, and that’s what he showed he can do in Tuesday night’s victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

45 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

It’s the most impressive and historic combination of numbers for a big man since the NBA began keeping track of blocked shots in the 1973-74 season.

He isn’t going to match those stats every night – even though Van Gundy probably believes he could if he really wanted to – but he has the opportunity to dominate at that level, with comparable numbers, every night of the season.

His coach described that performance with one word, – twice: “He was phenomenal. I mean phenomenal.”

His teammates had the following statements regarding his performance:
Courtney Lee: “When I was on the bench watching I was like ‘he’s unstoppable. He’s dominating.’ When I was out there I was like ‘that’s what he does.’ I looked up and he had 40 points. I just said ‘wow.’”
Rashard Lewis: “He carried us all the way. The whole game he played dominant. Scoring, rebounding, blocking shots; he played like Superman tonight. It’s amazing to see the things he can do. After he had a triple-double against Oklahoma earlier in the year, you would think he couldn’t top a game like that. Tonight he almost had a triple-double, had 45 points, 19 rebounds: it’s unheard of coming from a big man.”
J.J. Redick: “He kept us in the game. I guess that’s what superstars are supposed to do and he’s a superstar.”

Superstars are asked to step up in big situations and put the team on their shoulders.

Take a look at Howard warming up on a game night in his new adidas-wear and you’ll see the broadest set of shoulders in the league. It won’t be hard this guy to host the team on his back. And he showed it Tuesday night.

“His will, his desire, whatever you want to call it and his intensity playing – that’s what kept lifting guys up,” said Van Gundy. “Even though we had a lot of guys having frustrating nights, not having very good nights, what continues to give you confidence is him in the middle. And the way he’s playing you know you’ve still got a chance and that keeps everybody else fighting and playing. That was a point I think he has to understand. That’s leadership right there. It’s not a speech in the locker room; it’s not taking somebody out to dinner. It’s that kind of play on the floor.”

The best part about Howard may not necessarily be that play on the floor. It’s more the fact that right here, right now, he understands and acknowledges that he has to be the man that makes the second half of this season as magical as the first.

“I think for me, I have to step up now that Jameer is out,” Howard stated after Tuesday night’s game. “I have to be that leader and once my teammates see that I’m bringing it every night, they’re going to bring it.”

After reading that quote, I have two words of advice for teams and big men alike throughout the NBA: Watch out.

Marc D'Amico is an intern with the Orlando Magic's interactive marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | February 12, 2009

Catching up with Tyronn Lue

Recently acquired guard Tyronn Lue returns to play in familiar surroundings, having been a part of the Magic’s 2003-04 squad, a season in which he averaged more than 10 points per game. caught up with the 10-year pro in the latest edition of the BE THERE Blog

Compare the last time you played in Orlando to your current situation…

“I think when I was here the last time, we had a tough time winning games but the fans were always behind us, they always stuck with us. Now, the team is third in the Eastern Conference, a championship contender, I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

On how he characterizes this team…

It’s just a team full of good guys. It’s always easy to work and play together with such a good group of guys, and it’s even easier to win games with a good group of guys. Guys are not looking for statistics; their main goal is to win games and to win a championship.

What are your professional priorities now in Orlando?

My priorities are to be a good teammate and to knock down open shots. Play aggressive on defense and just play hard. That’s what I’ve been doing all through my career and that is what I’m going to continue to do here in Orlando.

What’s your advice for Rashard Lewis in the three-point contest?

Shoot it like he always shoots it. He really doesn’t need any advice from me. Every year, he is among the league leaders in threes made, so he knows what to do when he gets out there.

What are your thoughts on Dwight Howard defending his slam-dunk crown?

I don’t know, he’s a freak, man. To see a guy that big and strong to see how he jumps and how athletic he is, it’s unbelievable. He’s a fan favorite already, especially breaking the vote record.

What’s your plan for All-Star Weekend?

I just purchased a home out in Las Vegas and I haven’t seen it decorated yet, so I’m going to go out there and check it out.

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | February 6, 2009

A look back at Magic history

On September 19, 1991 the Orlando Magic fell into the good hands of the DeVos family. Richard DeVos Sr. took over the reigns of the organization as chairman and has never looked back, making it clear that the real owners of the NBA franchise would continue to be the Central Florida community and the loyal Magic fans.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan native’s success is not solely limited to the basketball community, but also stems out into the corporate realm as well. Rich and Helen DeVos have been blessed with financial success and have always faithfully shared their blessings with others. Since its creation in 1970, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has grown dramatically. The Foundation’s grant-making increased from $4 million in 1990 to more than $125 million by 2003. To date the total of their faith-based, education and community philanthropy exceeds $365 million.

Under the watchful eyes of DeVos, the Magic have made 10 trips to the playoffs, won two Atlantic Division Championships in 1995 and 1996, crowned Southeast Division champions in 2008, Eastern Conference champions in 1995, recorded four 50 win seasons, and set a franchise record with 60 victories in the ‘95-‘96 season.

The 2008-2009 season is shaping up to be one of the best in Magic history. Just as DeVos and all the Magic fans in Central Florida recently watched the NBA-record 23 3-pointers fall in Sacramento a few weeks ago, the record-setting day brought back memories of another downtown show that took place on April 18, 1996.

Dennis Scott, former Orlando Magic player from 1990-1997, was unstoppable during the 119-104 rout at home against the Atlanta Hawks. Scott drained one 3-pointer and never looked back, going on to set a then NBA single-game record with 11 treys while finishing the contest with a game-high 35 points.

As the season continues to progress and DeVos looks on, the hope is that the 3-pointers will continue to fall and W’s will continue to rack up for your Orlando Magic.

Ali Kicklighter is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Marc D'Amico | January 30, 2009


Head Coach Stan Van Gundy did his best to sum up January 29, 2009 as easily as possible.

“Pretty good day for the Magic,” he said, following the team’s 99-88 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Correction, Stan. It wasn’t just a good day for the Magic. It was an unprecedented day.

It’s not every day, week, month or year that a professional sports franchise can use that word to describe their achievements. But this season, with this Orlando Magic team, it seems like Kevin Garnett’s famous post-championship words are echoing through Amway Arena’s hallways nearly every night.

After winning his first championship trophy, Garnett made the following announcement: “Anything is possible!”

Last night was a strong example of those three words, as the Magic learned that they would be sending three players to the NBA All-Star team for the first time in the franchise’s 20-year history. Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson were elected to the team by coaches from around the league, joining fellow teammate Dwight Howard, who will be the East’s starting center in the 58th NBA All-Star game on Sunday, February 15 in Phoenix.

Both Nelson and Lewis are having fantastic seasons that have aided in the Magic jumping out to a blistering 35-10 record and sole possession of the Southeast Division lead.

Lewis, in his second season with the team, has played in all 45 games this season and has scored in double figures in 43 of those contests. His consistency has been an anchor of this team and is well-documented by his 25 games of scoring at least 20 points. While he has taken the most 3-pointers in the NBA, he has also drained the most and made 42.2 percent of those shots.

Dwight Howard leads the team in scoring with 20.1 points per game, but Lewis is right on his heels with a 19.3 nightly average. Even with those numbers, the Magic’s starting power forward wasn’t too involved with the thought of playing in the All-Star game. As a former All-Star (2005, Seattle SuperSonics), he was more concerned with seeing Nelson chosen as a member of the team.

“I was excited when I got the phone call and they told me I made it,” Lewis said after Thursday night’s game. “But I would have been happy if Jameer made it and I didn’t make it. I was looking more forward to seeing if he was going to make the team or not. I’ve been on the All-Star team before. I was waiting to hear what was going to happen with him.”

Luckily for the two of them, Orlando’s surging start has garnered enough respect for both players to be selected to the team along with Howard. Nelson, who is having a career-year with 17.0 ppg. on 50.5 percent shooting, beat out Rajon Rondo of the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics for a point guard spot on the East’s squad.

The player that Howard has tabbed as “Mighty Mouse” was elated to hear the news but was quick to point out that his All-Star selection was the result of his team as much as it was his play.

“This is a tribute to (Otis Smith) believing in me, my teammates being here with me and supporting me,” said Nelson. “The one thing is, a lot of people don’t give credit to their assistant coaches. But they’re the guys behind the scenes who get the job done. They and (Stan Van Gundy) put you in great situations to be successful.”

Just hours after learning that they would be the only team in the NBA to send three players to Phoenix, Orlando was set to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers. It was another case of those aforementioned coaches needing to put their players in situations to be successful.

When the final buzzer sounded, Orlando’s mid-season success had reached an all-time high.

The Magic had tied a franchise record of winning 35 of their first 45 games. They had just knocked off the then-top team in the Eastern Conference. They were sending three players to the All-Star game for the first time in their 20-year existence. They were soaring at new heights this team has never before achieved.


It’s a word that has epitomized this Orlando Magic team for the first half of the 2008-09 season.

Come mid-June, Central Florida might be celebrating another unprecedented day in franchise history; a day where an Orlando Magic player can hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy and exclaim to the word that yes, anything is possible.

Marc D'Amico is an intern with the Orlando Magic's interactive marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | January 23, 2009

A Ride Down 29th St.

He’s not the league leader in rebounds, blocked shots or All-Star votes, but often-overlooked Orlando Magic guard Mike Wilks is as deserving of attention and recognition as some of his ever-spotlighted teammates.

See, it’s not Wilks’s on-the-court accolades that grab your attention, even though he quietly won an NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005, it’s his commitment to both family and community, as well as his unwavering devotion to basketball that makes the six-year pro so impressive.

When not working vigorously to rehab from the ACL injury he suffered in the preseason, Wilks, a devoted husband, can be found at his downtown-Orlando home relaxing with his wife, Kim, and their children or visiting a local theme park, one his favorite things to do in the City Beautiful.

May sound simple for an NBA veteran, but that is Mike Wilks.


He arrives to games in uncomplicated, but fashionable suits. He’s adorned not with flashy watches, chains or diamond earrings, but with a smile and a humble attitude that is reflective of his Christian beliefs.

A man of few words, Wilks takes time to shake everyone’s extended hand.

Ironic for a guy who could easily feel downtrodden after riding an NBA rollercoaster that has taken him through nine teams in six seasons.

Yet, Wilks personifies unmatched perseverance and optimism when it comes to the path he’s taken to the NBA. A path that began on Milwaukee’s 29th Street playground.

“The playground was behind my house,” remembers Wilks, who has begun jogging and shooting on his surgically repaired knee. “I used to run across the alley and through the tennis court and I was there. I couldn’t wait to get home from school and finish my homework just so I could go straight to the playground.

Wilks’s playground pride is evidenced by the No. 29 that is stitched into his Magic jersey.

But Wilks faithfulness to the basketball Mecca of his youth doesn’t stop with just a jersey number. He returns each summer to run free camps for inner-city kids in a city known more for its brewing of beer than its production of NBA talent.

“It was our safe haven,” Wilks said, of the 29th Street playground. “Growing up in the inner-city, 29th Street kept us out of a lot of trouble. Some of the best players to come out of Milwaukee played there.”

Wilks is one of those players and although he attended and graduated from Rice University in far-away Houston, Texas, he is not forgotten around Milwaukee.

Walk into Gee’s Clippers on the city’s north side, “one of the best barbers in town,” according to Wilks, and you’ll see the Magic’s No. 29 hanging on the wall.

A tribute to the pride of 29th Street.

“Everybody has a story, a block that they grew up on that helps shape and mold them,” reflected Wilks, who in an effort to give back, has established the 29th Street Foundation. “Growing up in the inner-city there are a lot of negative things you can get into from drugs to gangs, but I had some mentors that saw potential in me and made sure I stayed away from negative things. I was fortunate enough to have parents that kept me on the straight and narrow.”

His journeyman’s road through the NBA has been anything but straight and narrow, but for the selfless Wilks, he’s equally concerned with the future of Milwaukee’s youth as he is with his own basketball career.

“I just try to use the NBA and my career to positively influence lives,” said Wilks. “I have a responsibility to be a positive role model to these children.”

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | January 15, 2009

Otis Smith - Then and Now

Not many players in the NBA take time to consider what career they are going to pursue after their days on the hardwood come to an end. This was not true for one member of the Orlando Magic's inaugural team.

Otis Smith has gone from dribbling and making baskets to signing all-stars from all around the league as he is now the Orlando Magic’s general manager.

Smith’s days in the No. 32 Magic pinstriped jersey were of much success as he averaged 11.4 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 1.9 apg., and 1.01 spg. in 195 games. Overall, Smith played in 375 career regular season games with Orlando, Denver and Golden State.

After Smith realized his ambition to become general manager of an NBA team, specifically the Orlando Magic, he knew he had to start learning the business aspect of the organization. He began learning the ropes of the front office after being appointed community relations manager for the Magic, a position he held for two years. He later went on to earn roles as director of community relations/Warriors Foundation, and executive director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors.

“I think it (took) a couple transitions, I don’t know if you transition all the way from one place to another”, said Smith. “I think what helped me tremendously is I went over to the front office in the business side, from Community Relations to Basketball Operations and I had great leadership.”

After holding the position as assistant general manager for the Magic, Smith finally got the call he had been waiting for. On May 3, 2006 Smith earned the coveted role as general manager of the team that has inevitably been close to his heart since the team began play in 1989.

His time as general manager for the Magic has been eventful. Smith played primary roles in both acquiring All-Star Rashard Lewis and extending the contract of the Magic’s cornerstone player, Dwight Howard.

While Smith has made big moves as a basketball player and general manager, he still realizes they are two completely different occupations.

“As a player it’s more of a worry about the game kind of thing and as a general manager you not only worry about the game but you worry about the next game and the next game in the next coming years. You also have to worry about the development and growth of all your players you currently have and all the staff that goes around it so it’s a lot of different encompassing things”.

Under the watchful eye of Smith, the Magic will continue taking steps toward the organization's ultimate goal – bringing an NBA title to the Central Florida community.

Ali Kicklighter is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Marc D'Amico | January 8, 2009

'They Deserve It' - Seats for Soldiers Night

Friday night’s match-up between two of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, will have a lot more meaning than what the Southeast Division standings look like at the end of the night.

When this night begins, a raucous sellout crowd will be on hand to root for their hometown heroes on the court. But, more importantly, the Magic players on the court will get a chance to pay tribute to their heroes in the stands, the thousands of military men, women and families that will be in attendance for the first Seats for Soldiers Night of the 2008-09 season.

For the third year in franchise history, the Orlando Magic and Harris Corporation have teamed up to put on this special night that offers complimentary and discounted tickets to military personnel and their families. It’s such a special night that many season ticket holders in Orlando, maybe the most passionate of Magic fans, have donated their tickets to this game knowing that it would result in free tickets for military families. That alone speaks volumes as to what this night means in the local community.

“This night is a night where we can say thank you to all those that help protect this country,” said Joe Andrade, Sr. director of ticket sales. “Just by the outpour and support of our season ticket holders who have donated their tickets back, everything looks like the night is going to be a huge success. We’re really, really excited about the energy that’s going to be in the building.”

Howard L. Lance, chairman, president and CEO of Harris Corporation, echoed those thoughts, noting that this is an event in which everyone can pay tribute to those who serve our country.

"Harris is proud to team with the Orlando Magic to honor our very deserving military men and women," he said. "This night is a special tribute and thank you to the men and women who provide the freedoms and security we enjoy every day as citizens of this great country. Their courage, devotion to duty, and professionalism are an inspiration to all Americans."

On a night built around them, these Americans will get to see two of the elite and most exciting teams in the NBA take each other on. In addition to the exciting basketball to be watched, taped messages will play to soldiers throughout the game thanking them for their commitment, a kids’ tunnel will take place on the court for the children, a pre-game presentation will occur on the court and, following the game, players will pay a special visit to these members of the military to take photos and sign autographs.

Andrade, who has previously taken part in efforts to give back to military within other organizations, has noticed that with the Magic, this event is important to everyone, from the ticket sales department to the players.

“I’ve never seen all the departments being so involved in this,” he said. “Every department is involved at some capacity. It’s not just a ticket sales event; this is an Orlando Magic event. We’ve kind of tapped into everybody – broadcasting, marketing, communications, multi-cultural insights and cause marketing – everybody is working together to make sure that this event is a huge success. It allows us to be able to plan and make sure that everything is just right for them (the military families).”

From the sound of it, this night will be one to remember for everyone in attendance. It’s a night for these proud Americans to enjoy watching some of the greatest basketball players in the world while receiving the thanks they deserve from people they admire.

For those military personnel who were not able to take advantage of this special night before the sellout occurred, the Magic organization has taken it upon themselves to offer the same discounted tickets to military families for the January 27th game vs. the Indiana Pacers. Those discounts will be lower bowl tickets sold at $35 rather than $70, and upper bowl tickets sold for $10 rather than $27. To take advantage of this special offer, call 407-89-MAGIC and press “2” for Group Sales.

Marc D'Amico is an intern with the Orlando Magic's interactive marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | December 19, 2008

Anthony Johnson: The List

Orlando Magic guard Anthony Johnson has played 11 years in the NBA with seven different teams.

Since the seasoned veteran has seen a lot in his decade plus of professional basketball, sat down with him and got his thoughts on a variety of topics dealing with his current and past teammates as well as opponents.

Funniest teammate/former teammate he’s ever had…

It has to be the tag team of Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard.

Teammate/former teammate that could cook the best…

Man, no teammates could ever cook, but Jermaine O’Neal had a great personal chef.

Former/current teammate that could dance…

Probably, Danny Granger from the Pacers.

Best trash talker he’s heard…

Has to be Gary Payton.

Cheapest Teammate he’s had…

We’ll go with Bo Outlaw, hands down.

Most philanthropic teammate/former teammate…

Probably Jermaine O’Neal.

Most hops (jumping ability)…

Vince Carter.

Most musically inclined teammate/former teammate…

Jerry Stackhouse, he was always singing when I played in Dallas.

Teammate/former teammate that is most likely to sing in the shower…

Dwight Howard.

Most likely to be on Dancing With the Stars…

Probably Dwight Howard.

Who is the joker of the NBA…

The best joker is Lorenzen Wright. Every year he fills up rookies cars with buttered popcorn.

Current/former teammate that would likely become an NBA head coach…

Probably Darryl Armstrong.

Dan Dugger is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | December 11, 2008

Lotto Luck leads to '94 playoff berth

The Orlando Magic’s lottery luck all began when the franchise was awarded the number one draft pick of the 1992 NBA draft. Little did everyone know this would only be the beginning of lottery luck for the organization.

Pat Williams, co-founder of the Magic and current Vice President, recognizes how fortunate the franchise has been to receive three number one draft picks.

“Most teams have trophies," Williams told a local Sentinel reporter. "We have three ping-pong balls that just sit there and preen. They are so proud of themselves."

With the first selection of the 1992 draft, the Orlando Magic selected Shaquille O’Neal from Louisiana State University. O’Neal went on to live up to everyone’s expectations breaking Magic records and backboards alike.

During his time at Orlando, O’Neal went on to set records for most career offensive rebounds, free throw attempts and blocked shots. He broke out his first year in Orlando to be one of only three players in Magic history to receive Rookie of the Year honors along with Mike Miller and fellow number one draft pick, Dwight Howard.

The Magic would follow their 1992 draft luck with back-to-back number one picks in ‘93, which would later cause the NBA to change their draft rules.

The Magic would go on to select Chris Webber with the number one pick then later trade him to Golden State with draft rights to Afernee Hardaway and three future first round draft choices.

Hardaway would later have great success in the Magic uniform including holding the current record for most steals in a season.

Back-to-back number ones would prove to be rewarding with the Magic clinching its first-ever playoff berth in 1994. In front of a sell out crowd O’Neal would score 40 points and battle for 16 rebounds to propel Orlando to a 117-103 victory over Detroit.

Third time is a charm turned out to reign true for the Magic when they were granted the first draft pack of the 2004 draft. Current super-star Dwight Howard was obtained with the number pick that year and has gone on to potentially be considered as one of the best center’s to ever play the game.

The young 23-year-old currently leads the Magic in field goal percentage and turnovers for a single season, and most career rebounds. One of Howard’s most prestigious feats came on the November 12th game against Oklahoma City when he recorded his first career tripe-double.

As we continue our quest for an NBA championship, it only seems feasible that more number one draft picks are in Orlando Magic’s future.

Ali Kicklighter is an intern with the Orlando Magic's communications department.

By Marc D'Amico | December 5, 2008

Amway Arena in a new light

Arenas and stadiums have a rare essence about them in our sports and entertainment world. Millions of fans trample through their doors each and every year to see the world’s elite professional athletes and performers live in action. But, other than their first and final years of existence, how often are these arenas really embraced?

A normal night for a fan might go something like this: park your car, walk to the entrance, hand over your ticket, proceed past security, maybe grab a drink or food, make your way to your seat. It’s a subconscious routine that every fan goes through in making their way to that night’s event.

But what is it that a fan misses during that subconscious progression to their seat? They’re missing the real details of a building that holds so many memories and will make so many more. No one stops to think about how incredible a structure these buildings are – that is, unless they’re brand new.

Central Florida will experience that feeling in the fall of 2010 when the Orlando Events Center opens its doors to thousands of rampant Magic fans on NBA Opening Night. But, until then, those fans will be making their way through the doors of Amway Arena, a building that will be nothing but a memory less than 24 months from now.

On November 4, 1989, the Orlando Magic took the court for the very first time in a regular season game. It happened inside the walls of Amway Arena in downtown Orlando, where the Magic have played every home game since.

With less than two years remaining in its existence, the Be There Blog feels it’s time to take a look at these details that fans miss during the nightly trip to their seats.

Designed by Lloyd Jones Philpor of Houston, TX and Cambridge Seven of Cambridge, MA, Amway Arena opened on January 29, 1989 and is owned and operated by the City of Orlando.

The structure has some incredible features that can be seen mostly from the outside of the building. Its exterior walls are made up of 49,000 glass blocks and 1,000 sections of pre-cast concrete. Each section of concrete weighs 7,500 pounds and is six inches thick.

As fans enter the arena at both the north and south ends, they will make their way up 24 concrete steps. Each of those steps is its own concrete slab measuring 300 feet in length. The entrances and steps are lit around the building by three miles of bulbs that make the arena a fantastic view at night.

The signature of the building may be its outside fountains and palm trees. Two fountains are located around the outside of the arena that pump up to 5,000 gallons of water per minute. They are often lit by bulbs and add to the look of the building from the outside. While walking by these fountains and making way to the building itself, fans will pass by hundreds of palm trees that line the walkways. It truly gives the feel of being in Florida while leading fans in the right direction.

Inside the arena, fans will find an upper and lower bowl full of red, plush seats. Seating capacity for basketball games is 17,461, while concerts can entertain 17,740 fans with an end-stage setup and 18,039 fans with a center stage setup. Heading into this season of play, 11,907,309 fans have sat in these seats for 762 Orlando Magic regular season games. Last season (2007-08) was the all-time high in attendance with 709,346 fans watching the Magic go 25-16 at home.

Numerous skyboxes, 26 to be exact, are located 82 feet above the court and comfortably seat 16 guests each. These boxes will be dramatically outdone by the suites in the new Orlando Events Center (to read about these suites, visit the Experience Center blog at the bottom of this page) in two years, but will certainly serve fans well in the meantime.

One of the most important pieces of an arena or stadium in any city is the parking. Amway Arena offers some of the best arena parking availability in the entire country. Outside the arena are 3,500 on-site parking spots, with another 4,067 located in the surrounding downtown area. In total, 7,567 parking spots are located within a one-mile area surrounding the arena.

These are the details of a building that many of us take for granted when we enter it. Many of us are so excited to see our nightly entertainment that we just don’t take the time to stop and think about what is around us.

Maybe next time you shift into park with tickets in hand, every step to your seat will be a little different than the last. Enjoy the intricacies of Amway Arena now, because the opportunity to do so is quickly slipping away.

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | November 27, 2008

Mr. Assist

While it’s common discourse to believe “records are made to be broken,” one NBA single-game mark hasn’t fallen in nearly two decades, and it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near vulnerable.

Former Orlando Magic guard Scott Skiles distributed 30 assists in a 155-116 victory over Denver in 1990, a record that has easily endured throughout the years despite increased scoring and talented guard play.

“Someday, someone will get 31, so I don't think too much about the assists record,” said Skiles, now a head coach with the Milwaukee Bucks after serving stints in the same position in both Phoenix and Chicago. “But I am proud to know that of all the great playmakers – guys like Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Tiny Archibald and John Stockton – I have more assists than any of them in one game.”

Yes, Hornets guard Chris Paul dished out 21 assists in one game last season against the Lakers, but that’s still 10 short of breaking Skiles’s astonishing accomplishment. What makes the story even more compelling is that, as a team last season, the Magic reached the 30-assist mark just three times.

An All-American at Michigan State University, Skiles spent five seasons with the Orlando Magic from 1989-94. He appeared in 384 career regular season games with the Magic, averaging 12.9 ppg., 7.2 apg. and 2.9 rpg. Skiles remains the franchise’s all-time leader in assists, dishing out 2,776 during his tenure with Orlando. “When my mark is broken, it will be one incredible game to watch,” said Skiles. “And when someone does, he will have earned it. The game goes on; I won't be sad or sorry.”

Dan Dugger is an intern in the Magic’s communications department.

By Ali Kicklighter | November 21, 2008

Make All-Star Weekend a Weekend of Magic

The names for the 2008-2009 All-Star Ballot have been announced and four of your Orlando Magic players have made the list. Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson have all made the coveted ballot along with other top players in the NBA.

The ballot is made up of 120 players, including 24 guards, 24 forwards and 12 centers for each conference. You can cast your vote for two guards, two forwards and one center as many times as you would like, and the starters (which are determined by fan voting) will be announced January 21, 2009.

Howard, Lewis, Turkoglu and Nelson are all honored to be on the ballot with fellow superstars around the league. Nelson for one is eager to see how many votes he can acquire.

“I am excited; the opportunity to get votes is really exciting,” said Nelson.

While Nelson remains content with accumulating votes, Lewis is already hoping for the best possible team in the East.

“It’s always good to be on the All-Star ballot because you never know what can happen,” said Lewis. “As long as we have a good team come game time, anything is possible.”

After narrowly missing last year’s All-Star game, Turkoglu has high hopes for this year and continues to work hard to become a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Turkoglu was considered by many around the league to be the one player who deserved to make the 07-08 All-Star team but was left off.

“I think everything is all about what you make it so I will try my best,” said a determined Turkoglu. “As long as I keep playing and producing good numbers the votes will come.”

As many of you are aware, Howard made an even bigger name for himself during the 07-08 All-Star weekend by being named the starting center for the Eastern Conference team and winning the Slam Dunk Championship. His Superman dunk not only went on to earn him the nickname but could be considered the highlight of the entire weekend.

In order to cast your vote for all Magic players (I say all Magic players because you can write in your favorite Orlando player), you have many options. Voting will continue through Jan. 11 for paper balloting and Jan. 19 for internet and wireless balloting. The 2009 NBA All-Star Game, which will air live on TNT and ESPN Radio, will be held on Feb. 15, 2009 in Phoenix, AZ. Fans can vote in a variety of ways, including: on, at each NBA arena, in 20 languages on and through mobile phones at t-zones on T-Mobile phones or for any wireless carrier.

To all my fellow fans, I am trusting that you will choose wisely and make this year’s Eastern Conference All-Star team a star-studded lineup of members of the best team in the NBA, the Orlando Magic!

Ali Kicklighter is an intern in the Magic’s communications department.

By Marc D'Amico | November 13, 2008

The Future Is Now

For many teams in the NBA, this season is about building and preparing for the future. Teams like the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets and Memphis Grizzlies are attempting to stockpile young talent while decreasing their salary cap number in hopes to lure free agents their way in the coming years.

In Orlando, things are a lot different. What you see on the court this year is in many cases the future of the team. Otis Smith has assembled a roster of players that he believes he can build around to bring an NBA championship to Orlando for the very first time. After winning 52 games last season, it’s clear that he isn’t far off.


Smith’s recipe for winning an NBA championship has four main ingredients, and they are as follows:

Ingredient No. 1- Dwight Howard (Signed through 2012-13)
Since being drafted by the Magic with the first overall pick in 2004, Howard has become one of the top players in the NBA and is widely regarded as the best center in the league. He has dramatically increased his abilities on the offensive end of the floor since his rookie season and has become a potent scoring threat. His commitment to defense has shown so far in the 2008-09 season as he is leading the NBA with 4.38 blocks per game and has 14 more total blocks (35) than Andrew Bynum, who is second in the league with 21.

On November 12, 2008, Howard showed every skill in his repertoire when he notched his first career triple-double against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Wondering what his final stat line was? Take a look:
30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks, three assists, 12-of-21 from the floor and only one turnover.
If that’s not production, I don’t know what is. There aren’t many players in the history of the NBA, let alone current players, who can match a night like that. He is the centerpiece of this organization and is signed through the 2012-13 season. At only 22 years of age, Superman might be calling Orlando his home for a lot longer than that.

Ingredient No. 2- Rashard Lewis (Signed through 2012-13)
Lewis was the biggest acquisition for the Magic franchise since they lured Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill to town in the summer of 2000. He is a team-first player and has shown that since joining Orlando prior to last season. He has shifted his position to the power forward and is continually adjusting to that spot. Still, he is considered to be a great match on the floor with the always-developing Howard.

With Howard’s ability to dominate the paint, he is drawing many double-teams from opponents and that number will only grow in the future. Combine that with the outstanding shooting ability of Lewis and you’ve got a great duo to take the floor with each and every night. Lewis is an All-Star-caliber player and he showed that in 2005 as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics.

He is a player that excels at the offensive end of the floor and has impressed many in the league with his defensive performance at the power forward position last year and into this season. On most teams he would be the go-to guy on offense. In Orlando, he doesn’t have that pressure. He can play his game and allow his other teammates, like Howard, to get involved as well.

Ingredient No. 3- Jameer Nelson (Signed through 2012-13)
Coming out of Saint Joseph’s University as the recipient of the 2004 NCAA men’s basketball Wooden and Naismith awards, Nelson has developed in each season of his NBA career. With so many scoring options on this roster his job is to distribute, and that’s exactly what he’s done so far this season. Last season, Nelson averaged a career-high 5.6 assists per game and is carrying that into the 2008-09 campaign. After a slow start, Nelson has picked up his game and is averaging 5.0 apg. (three games of six or more assists) and also notched his career-high of rebounds with 10 against Oklahoma City on November 12.

His quickness, decision-making and shooting abilities all combine for enough to convince Otis Smith that he is the point guard of the future in Orlando. His statistics have shown improvement this season, specifically in the rebounding department, and he is taking care of the ball. Last year he averaged nearly a 3-to1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is over a 2-to-1 average so far this season.

Ingredient No. 4- Mickael Pietrus (Signed through 2011-12)
This summer, Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy wanted to bring in a player that they thought was on the verge of taking off in his NBA career. Enter Mickael Pietrus.

After five seasons in Golden State, the Magic lured him away and think that they have found their man. So far, Pietrus has delivered. He is having a career year in almost every major statistical category, including points per game (13.4), apg. (1.0), free throw shooting (89.3 percent), 3-point shooting (40.0 percent) and field goal percentage (50.0 percent). He is also pulling down 3.2 rebounds per game and all of this is happening in an average of only 26.6 minutes of playing time.

It’s certain that he will be more accustomed to Van Gundy’s system as well as his fellow players throughout the season, so look for him to take off as was anticipated by the Orlando front office.


Any great recipe has more than the main ingredients. There is always a “pinch” of this and a “pinch” that.

One player who hasn’t played like a pinch during his Magic career is Hedo Turkoglu. At the moment, he is a main ingredient on this team. At this point, though, he can become a free agent at the end of this season if he chooses to opt out of his contract. He was the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season and is averaging 17.9 ppg., 5.4 rpg. and 4.3 apg. so far this season. At this point, consider him a pinch ingredient as a result of his contract situation. If the Magic can retain him in a three or four year contract this summer, put him right back up there with the four ingredients listed above. That would mean that the Magic have all five of their starters signed to play together at least through the 2011-12 season. Not many teams in the NBA will be able to say that (and be happy about it) heading into next season.

The last and final long-term ingredient to this roster is rookie Courtney Lee. He was drafted this season with the 22nd overall the NBA draft. Although he has played sparingly so far this season, the Magic believe he can become a strong contributor in the very near future. He is athletic, has great shooting ability and plays beyond his years with the ball. His defensive abilities are a strong asset to have coming off the bench and he will only get better in the coming years. Orlando has him signed through the 2011-2012 season, with 2010-11 and 2011-12 being team option years. If he can develop to the level the front office anticipates, he’ll be a steal by the end of that contract and could be a huge factor in the Magic winning a title.

So, at a quick glance, you can see that Otis Smith has four of his five starters and a talented rookie signed for this season and the following three seasons. He has three of his five starters signed for this season and the following four seasons.

Is this the recipe to win the NBA championship? No one can really say just yet. But if you are a Magic fan you can say one thing: The future is now.

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | November 6, 2008

Pat Williams: Exceptionally Accomplished but Always Forward Thinking

There are 30 teams in the NBA, just barely enough to cover half of the states in the U.S.

Not to mention that California covets four, Texas hosts three, Florida has a pair and Toronto is home to the Raptors.

So, for a state, let alone a city, to serve as home to an NBA franchise — that’s pretty exclusive company.

The city of Orlando has successfully sat in that company since Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams helped orchestrate a franchise move 20 FANtastic seasons ago.

Convincing a Community

When the NBA awarded Orlando a franchise in late April of 1987, Williams not only had to sell 10,000 season tickets, he had to convince a Central Florida community that it could be a major league sports city.

The 68-year-old Williams cited the latter as the most difficult aspect of securing a franchise but the trail-blazing Philadelphia native would combat that difficulty with his extraordinary vision.

“I saw it clearly in my mind, what [the Orlando Magic] was going to look like,” said Williams, the team’s first general manager. “I think the first ingredient of leadership is vision. Vision is the very centerpiece of leadership, to see the future before it gets here.”

The Magic had to until December 31, 1988 to sell its 10,000th season ticket and a mere nine days before the league’s deadline, Orlando businessman Greg Wallace purchased eight tickets for $5,840, pushing the total to 10,000.

"The good news is that it's done," Williams told the Orlando Sentinel in 1988. "We hit 10,000 this morning and it's history — Orlando is a major league sports market."

Two decades later, Orlando has remained a major league sports market and the Magic a top-tier team, thanks in part to the Orlando Magic’s outstanding ownership and a goal-oriented front office.

“There is no question that everything in sports starts at the ownership level,” said Williams. “I give the DeVos family A-pluses across the board.”

Since the DeVos family purchased the Magic in 1991, the team has won three division championships, one Eastern Conference title and had four 50-win seasons. Even so, the on-the-court accomplishments are philanthropically overshadowed by the millions of dollars the family and the organization has donated to the Central Florida community.

Appetite for a Title

Williams won an NBA Title as a general manager with the Philadelphia 76ers, and now the accomplished author has his sights set on bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy to Orlando.

“I think it’s always our goal, it’s the reason you play,” said Williams, who has written more than 50 books. “You play to get a ring.”

The Magic’s pursuit of a ring obviously centers on Olympic Gold Medalist and fifth-year center Dwight Howard — a player that Williams was keen on since day one.

“I was a Dwight guy,” said Williams, who represented the organization at the draft lottery in 2004. “I thought Dwight had a chance to be extraordinary. Dwight had a chance to be a major star, and he is.”

It is Howard’s stardom, combined with a tremendously talented team supported by a championship-hungering leadership group that has Magic fans believing that an NBA Title in The City Beautiful is quite realistic in its 20th FANtastic season.

By Ali Kicklighter | October 30, 2008

Just call him Rashard "Teamwork" Lewis

If you are picking teams for a game of pick-up basketball, there is no doubt Rashard Lewis is the guy you want to pick first.

Lewis could easily be the poster child, or man, for teamwork in the NBA. There are very few guys in the league who are willing to give up his position simply for the benefit of his team.

“Teamwork is the No. 1 key in NBA basketball because it takes a team to win an NBA Championship,” Lewis said. “It’s not going to be one, two, or three guys, it actually takes more than five guys on the court because there are people coming off the bench and of course the coaches.”

Going into the 2007-2008 season, Lewis was asked to make a change that would define him as the ultimate team player.

Lewis made the jump from small forward to power forward in order to benefit his Orlando Magic team. He was willing to put his own personal success on the back burner and gave up his small forward position to Hedo Turkoglu.

Last season it was speculated if Lewis would have stayed at the small forward position he would have been a member of 2007-2008 All-Star team. He was a member of the 2004-2005 All-Star team and was selected to compete in the 2006-2007 3-point contest.

“I think changing positions did matter a little bit just for the fact I had to adjust playing the four and learn the pick-and-roll defense,” Lewis said of his chances of making last year’s All–Star team. “I think I am a lot better this year than I was last year for the simple fact I played power forward all season long.”

Lewis’s character is simply one-of-a-kind and his positive, optimistic attitude can be humbling to anyone he meets. Lewis is always the one standing behind his teammates supporting and praising them for all their hard work.

Lewis was taught at an early age the proper way to treat and respect everyone who crosses his path. “I feel like I treat everyone with respect: players, coaches and staff. I just think you should treat everyone as you want to be treated because that’s how I was raised.”

With Lewis’s attitude and dedication to the game of basketball, there is no doubt he will only continue to be a positive attribute to the Orlando Magic.

Ali Kicklighter is a communications intern for the Orlando Magic.

By Marc D'Amico | October 24, 2008

Did You Know?

Isn’t it always nice to throw out a “did you know that…” in the middle of a sports conversation that no one had any idea was true? Isn’t it even better to be able to do that in a conversation about the Orlando Magic?

Well will be giving you some ammo for those situations this year! Every other Wednesday, a new “Did You Know” will pop up on the 20th Anniversary page in the Magic player. That means every other week you’re going to have another fun fact in your holster that you can unload on your friends at a Magic game.

So do you want a taste of things to come? Well look no further, the Be There Blog is here to give you a sneak preview! Listed below are five Did You Knows that didn’t quite make the cut, but they’ll give you an idea of what’s coming your way.

Did you know that… Rashard Lewis is currently the only NBA player listed at with the last name Lewis? I bet you wouldn’t have figured that!

Did you know that… on February 20, 2005, following five surgeries to his left ankle, forward Grant Hill returned to All-Star form and was voted a starter for the 2005 NBA All-Star game?

Did you know that… first year Magic player Anthony Johnson was an All-Conference football quarterback and baseball shortstop for Stall High School in Charleston, S.C? No big deal.

Did you know that… Michael Jordan made his first appearance in Orlando on December 20, 1989 and dropped 52 points on the Magic? Well, too bad for him, Otis Smith was on that Magic team and nailed a game-winning shot at the buzzer, leading Orlando over the Chicago Bulls, 110-109. Smith, the current Magic general manager, scored 28 points on the night.

Did you know that… our Orlando Magic broadcast crew employs two former Magic head coaches – Matt Goukas and Richie Adubato?

If you thought these ones were good… wait until we bounce 12 to 15 of them to you throughout the season. Again, every other Wednesday (continuing on November 5th) a new Did You Know will be added to the site, so make sure you come back and store them in your brain! After all, you never know when you might need to pull one out.

Did you know that you can visit the 20th Anniversary Did You Know page by clicking below to read the first entry? Well... now you do!

Did you know that on October 31, 1988, STUFF, the Magic Dragon, the official mascot of the Orlando Magic, was…(read more)

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Marc D'Amico | October 17, 2008

Rookie Road Trips

If you grew up with an older sibling, you know how it feels to be the one who always takes out the trash, or has to wash the dishes or always gets the blame for doing something wrong. Right now, Courtney Lee is feeling the exact same way as you did back in the day, except he doesn’t have one older sibling this year, he’s got a whole bunch of them – 15 to be exact.

Each and every year, players enter the league from the collegiate and European levels and every single one of them experiences the fun of being an NBA rookie. This year, Lee happens to be the sole rookie on the Orlando Magic roster, so he has to take all of the fun squarely on his shoulders.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the number one pick like Derrick Rose or an undrafted free agent signing, you’re going to hear it day in and day out.

Take Wednesday’s practice, for instance. Stan Van Gundy spoke to his team after their practice concluded around 12:50 p.m. and everyone headed to the locker room with the exception of Dwight Howard, Mickael Pietrus and Courtney Lee. Lee walked up into the top row of the bleachers to sit down and have a chat with Morlon Wiley, director of player development. As they sat and talked in the stands overlooking the court, Pietrus pulled the ball cart over to the very corner of the court. Over the next few minutes, he and Howard had some fun heaving every single ball 94 feet down the court with one hand.

Howard and Pietrus threw some verbal bets out there (of a solid monetary value) on who would hit the rim or make a shot first. Both of them walked off the court even in their bank accounts, as neither of them came within five feet of hitting the rim.

But as they walked off the court their work wasn’t done. The path from the court to the locker room went right by Wiley and Lee, and with that Lee heard the line he’s become all too familiar with: “Get on that, Rook.”

Pietrus headed into the locker room laughing, knowing that he just had his fun at the rookie’s expense. Howard stopped to talk to reporters but couldn’t help from laughing about what he just took part in. As he spoke to reporters, he mentioned what the rook is in for on the road this season.

“This is the rook’s first road trip, so you know, we might give him a little something,” Howard joked. “We might toss him in the pool or something or throw some duct tape on him or do something crazy … He has to make sure all of us are up and give us the wake up call and take all of our dirty clothes and give them to Sid (Powell).”

While Howard may have been joking about some light-hearted hazing, he made sure to say that Lee’s player profile page is going to say “R” under his NBA experience category for a long time.

“He’s a rookie until next season until his first game, so he’s got a while,” he said with a smile.

It seemed still, the day their first road trip began, Lee didn’t understand that he was going to be the target of all practical jokes. When he spoke about his first road trip, all he could talk about was how intrigued he was.

“I’m actually looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve been around these guys for a while and had a couple of home pre-season games, so I’m just excited to see what life is going to be like on the road.”

Sadly, for Lee, it doesn’t seem like life on the road is going to be the most pleasurable experience in the world. But as Howard had noted before, it’s all in good fun and every rookie has to deal with it. That is, unless they can find an easy way out.

While Howard was deep in conversation with reporters and Pietrus was changing, a basketball operations intern emerged from the locker room. Lee yelled over to the intern that he had to pick up the balls scattered all over the court. As any intern would do, he hopped right on that task and picked up every single ball.

It’s now Friday, day three of Lee’s first NBA road trip. By now, he’s probably become aware of two things.

First... he probably noticed that life on the road as a rookie is a lot different than life on the road as a veteran.

Second... interns don’t travel.

Sorry, Courtney.

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Ali Kicklighter | October 2, 2008

Bo Outlaw is the true definition of Community Ambassador

With his trademark smile and one-of-a-kind laugh, Bo Outlaw is simply in a league of his own. While his playing career has come to an end, good character and a generous spirit are still high on his priority list.

Many people who attended games during Outlaw’s playing career remember his pre-game dance moves and enthusiastic personality both on and off the court, but now his role as Orlando Magic Community Ambassador has allowed him to continue impacting the people of Orlando with his glowing personality.

One of Outlaw’s main priorities is giving back to the community where he now calls home. “I’m just here to help out and give back to the community to let them know we are here and appreciate what they are doing,” Outlaw said of he and fellow ambassador Nick Anderson. “We try to give back as much as we can.”

If you get a chance to meet Outlaw, you will quickly realize his motto in life is simply, “enjoy every day.” Every time Outlaw has been spotted in the office or out in the community, he is gleaming from ear to ear and is willing to spend time with each and every individual.

Hard work and dedication has allowed Outlaw to have a successful on and off the court record in the NBA. His simple advice to everyone is “work hard.”

“Be happy and have fun,” Outlaw said. “If you work hard and give your all, then there’s no need to be upset because you tried your best. Just wake up, enjoy life and do what you can that day.”

Outlaw was a seasoned NBA veteran in the league for 14-years, playing stints with the L.A. Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic. While he traveled around to several teams, he always seemed to find his way back to the Magic.

With the team’s 20th Anniversary season quickly approaching, Outlaw has been recognized as the only player to wear all of the Orlando Magic’s covenant jerseys. While he mentions that he has liked them all, the infamous star jersey worn by the team from 1998-2003 was his favorite jersey to proudly wear on game days.

The new uniforms for the 2008-2009 season take it back to the teams first years with pinstripes for both home and away games.

The pinstriped jerseys were worn by the Magic their first 10 years from 1989-1999. While Bo’s favorite jersey was the stars, the pinstriped are listed as a close second.

If you had to pick one guy to wear all of the Magic’s jerseys, Bo Outlaw would be one of the best candidates. There truly is nobody who enjoys life, or who loves the Magic, as much as him.

On behalf of the Orlando Magic community, thank you Bo for everything you have done for the beautiful city of Orlando and for all of Central Florida.

By Marc D'Amico | September 22, 2008

OMYF Golf Tournament is a Big Win

The Orlando Magic team offices at the RDV Sportsplex were empty Friday morning. Only a few roamed the halls that usually host between 100 and 200 staff members Monday through Friday.

It was just another day, and another example of why “basketball” and “Dwight Howard” shouldn’t be the only thoughts that pop into your head when you hear someone talking about the Orlando Magic.

Nearly half of the Orlando Magic staff was out volunteering at the Championship for Charity Golf Tournament, an Orlando Magic Youth Fund (OMYF) fundraiser that is held at this time every year. This year’s event was hosted by the Ginn Reunion Resort, which includes the Arnold Palmer Legacy and Tom Watson Independence golf courses.

With more than 100 Orlando Magic staff members and corporate partner members taking a Friday away from work to benefit a not-for-profit golf tournament, it’s no challenge to find that the Magic are about a lot more than basketball.

Since the team’s inaugural season in 1989, ownership has made it clear that professionalism and making a positive impact would be expected from top to bottom and would become staples of the organization. That fact is boldly placed in the Orlando Magic Mission Statement, which reads: “To be world champions on and off the court, delivering legendary moments every step of the way.”

With the team heading into its first season of play, ownership decided to begin that “off the court” impact with their community relations department, and in 1988 OMYF was born. Since that year, the foundation has grown dramatically and made over $13 million of donations to non-profit organizations.

For this to happen, dedication has to trickle from ownership all the way down to the community relations department, and that is certainly the case here in Orlando.

“I think the great thing and the unique thing about our foundation is that our owners, the DeVos family and the Vander Weide family, they pay all of the operating cost of the foundation,” said Kari Conley, director of community relations and the OMYF.

With commitment like that from the owners, OMYF has the ability to hold top-of-the-line fundraisers like the golf tournament throughout the year. But the golf tournament is one of their most important events, and that’s why volunteers from the prganization are willing to spend a day in the heat each and every year.

This year’s tournament began with shifts at 6 a.m. in preparation of the players’ arrival and registration. The day concluded at 5:30 p.m. after the awards luncheon and silent auction. In those 11 ½ hours of work, OMYF was expected to raise over $200,000. With all expenses paid for, every cent raised will wind up back in the community in some way, shape or form. Not a bad day at the golf course, eh?

It was a day that was fully aimed toward a good cause, but at the same time its participants were able to have a day full of fun.

Throughout the course, separate contests, giveaways and donations were available to the participants. First, players were given the option of purchasing an “Early Birdie Special” for the tournament, which awards players a specific number of mulligans, sandy andy’s and gimmie’s per round, depending on the package purchased.

When each foursome took the course with their purchased helpers in hand (even Tiger Woods can use a mulligan every now and then), they were faced with a hole-in-one contest, an on-the-green contest, a Brown Forman shot-for-shot contest, longest and straightest drive contests and a closest to the pin contest. The winner of each contest was awarded a prize at the luncheon, and a hole-in-one would have won a new car. None of the players were up to par in that contest.

Along with these special contests, players received gifts throughout the day, including red commemorative polos, black pull-over jackets and goodie bags.

Each foursome also got a visit from a special guest at the event. Mingling with the players and taking pictures throughout the course were gold medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte and Community Relations Ambassador Bo Outlaw.

“It’s always good to do these events,” Outlaw said. “People would say it’s ‘easy’ but it’s just a fun event. We’re out here playing golf and meeting people, but the bottom line is it’s all for the kids. That’s what it’s all about.”

Lochte felt the same way, citing on numerous occasions that he was “grateful” to be there and that it “really meant a lot” to be asked to the event by the Magic.

It may have meant just as much to the players, one of which was another gold medalist, Dwight Howard. Many of the groups stopped their play for five to 10 minutes to speak with Lochte about his experiences in Beijing and when he would start his training again.

As the 18-hole rounds came to a close, players were greeted inside for a luncheon and silent auction. Head Coach Stan Van Gundy spoke to the group of participants and newly signed shooting guard Mickael Pietrus roamed the crowd introducing himself to many of the golfers.

As the silent auction closed and the Ginn Reunion Resort emptied, a sense of success felt by everyone, especially those from the OMYF.

“We were really pleased with the results today, especially with the economy and just, the state of what we’re all dealing with,” Conley said. “I think that we have some strong supporters of the Magic as well as friends of the Magic that come out every year because they know it’s a good cause and that 100 percent of their donations is going to go to the charities in this community. It’s the greatest need for these charities to receive this money, so it’s fun and not just about golf but giving back.”

It means a lot to raise such a large amount of money for a foundation, but it means even more when everyone involved has fun doing it. Scorecards may have said there were winners and losers on the course that Friday, but each and every person at the resort that day contributed to a huge win.

It wasn’t a game seven clinching playoff win or a buzzer beating layup, but this kind of win has become a regular fixture for the Magic over the past 20 years. And these are the wins that Central Florida children will be appreciating for the rest of their lives.

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | September 15, 2008

Dwight Displays Acting Potential in Recent adidas Shoot

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard spent the morning of his first day at voluntary workouts preparing for the season.

He spent the afternoon displaying his acting skills in a ten-hour long commercial shoot for the shoe and apparel company, adidas.

While the NBA’s official apparel sponsor requested that the details be kept mum, there were some highlights of the day that I can share:

* The shoot took place at the Lynx Bus Station downtown and all over the RDV Sportsplex (Magic locker room, weight room, practice court).

* At times, Dwight was trailed by as many as five cameras, but it didn’t faze him as he showed spectacular acting skills.

* During the shoot, Dwight taught the “Soulja Boy” dance and a similar handshake which he shares with Magic teammates

* Members of the Magic staff just may have participated in the commercial as extras

* For lunch, Howard ate Popeye’s chicken, followed by alfredo pasta with spicy shrimp for dinner

* Aaron Campbell, a 19-year-old actor/model from Orlando, Fla., who stands 6-foot-5, served as Howard’s stand-in.

* Howard’s wardrobe consisted of two racks of clothing, featuring both the new unreleased Orlando Magic jersey and the 2009 All-Star jersey.

* When shooting a scene Howard was riding a stationary bike and when asked what he was doing, he mistakenly said, “I’m just on the treadmill.”

* A plethora of adidas employees stressed that Howard is one of the best athletes to work with because of his easy-going and comedic attitude.

* Howard did give some insight to what his plans would be if he is persuaded to defend his 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Championship in Phoenix, Ariz., at the 2009 contest. Unfortunately…you will have to wait and see.

By Marc D'Amico | September 4, 2008

Why do you think his nickname is the Magic Man?

In professional sports, all you need is one play to go down as a legend. One moment in time where you make a play that was so unforeseen, game-changing, remarkably difficult and what many would call “impossible” before seeing it happen with their own eyes.

Just ask David Tyree of the New York Giants, who made “The Catch” in the 2008 Super Bowl vs. the undefeated New England Patriots. Or Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hit a walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series on one leg. Or Mike Aruzione of the USA Men’s Hockey Team, who scored the go-ahead goal against the Soviet Union in the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

These are all moments that would go down in history as some of the greatest and most unexpected plays of their respective sports and teams.

Nick Anderson is no unknown when it comes to NBA basketball and the Orlando Magic, but in game one of the 1995 Eastern Conference semi-finals, he made a play that will forever be remembered by the Magic faithful and the NBA – and the greatest player to ever play the game.

Just six years after its inception into the NBA, the Orlando Magic had become a serious threat to win an NBA championship. With the luck of Pat Williams winning two NBA draft lotteries, the team was loaded with a young, yet dominant Shaquille O’Neal in the middle, Penny Hardaway on the wing, newly signed All-Star forward Horace Grant and a host of talented veterans, including Anderson.

“We knew what we had and we knew what we were capable of,” Anderson said of the ’94-95 team. “All we had to do was go out on the court and play our game.”

They did just that, going 57-25 in the regular season, good for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Magic also relished in their time at home, winning 39 of the 41 regular season home games. A big part of that, as Anderson noted, was a result of the fans.

“They (the fans) motivated me more so than anybody,” said Anderson.

“I had a ritual that I always did at home. I never not did it. I would go and put the chalk on my hands, and I’d come back from the last player on the bench, I mean even the ball boys. I’m slapping hands all the way down every coach, and then the whole scorers table, they would stand up because they knew I was coming, and they’d have a hand out and I’d slap their hands running down, and I’d give that leap on the floor, and I’d turn around to the fans and motion: I’m ready,” he explained as he opened his arms wide and stuck his chest out, as if he was on the floor in front of the Magic fans once again.

He and his teammates were more than ready to make a run to the finals. In the first round they faced off with the 16-time NBA champion Boston Celtics.

“We came here the first game against Boston and I think we won (by), if I’m not mistaken, somewhere in the vicinity of 42-47 points in the first game,” Anderson said. “In the second game we came out, we knew they were going to make adjustments and everything like that, which they did. They played better basketball as a team, as a unit, and we ended up losing game 2 here on our floor. So the series headed to Boston. We went to Boston and took care of business. We ended up shutting down the Boston Garden. I can say that I played the last basketball game ever played in the old Boston Garden. I’m a part of history!”

Put a check mark next to historic moment number one of the ’95 Magic playoff run.

Historic moment number two would come soon after closing out the Celtics in four games.

In the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Magic were up against the Chicago Bulls, a team that had won three of the previous four NBA championships and was led throughout the season by All-NBA First Teamer Scottie Pippen. But after a late season addition, a new leader had come back on board in Chicago. His name was Michael Jordan.

With Jordan out of retirement and back on the team, the Magic knew that series would be no walk in the park. When each team advanced on to play each other, Anderson realized what he was going to be defending all series long.

“This guy was unbelievable,” Anderson said. “He was unbelievable. He had the mindset that he wasn’t going to be defeated. He’s not going to give up. Forty eight minutes, he’s giving you 48 minutes of hell. That was just Michael Jordan.”

On May 7, 1995, Nick Anderson sat in the last chair of the Orlando Magic bench, telling himself, “Kill my man, kill my man.” He got up, ran the length of the bench and scoring table slapping hands then jumped and turned to the fans and gestured he was ready. He was ready to kill his man, Michael Jordan.

With 1:11 left in the fourth quarter, Jordan scored his 17th, 18th and 19th points on a fast break and-one layup to give the Bulls an 89-88 lead. Soon after, Shaquille O’Neal put the Magic back on top by one when he hit two free throws with 49 seconds remaining in the game. The Bulls then brought the ball up court and ran a set play, which resulted in Toni Kukoc tossing an alley-oop to Scottie Pippen for a dunk and a one point lead.

Instead of calling a timeout, Magic Head Coach Brian Hill elected to let his young team play on in the final 30 seconds of the game. Dennis Scott received a pass from Anderson at the top of the 3-point line and drove into the paint, looking to dish a pass off to the cutting Penny Hardaway. Instead, the errant pass was stolen by Bulls guard B.J Armstrong.

The air seemed to have been sucked out of the arena as the Bulls called time out. They now had a one point lead with 18 seconds left, possession of the ball and the most clutch player in basketball history on their side. Not a bad combination to close out a game.

But the Magic, and specifically Nick Anderson, had different plans. He was up for the challenge and knew his team needed him. O’Neal made that clear to him in the timeout.

“Shaq would say ‘Play good defense on him! Play good defense on him!’ And I would say ‘I got it, I got it,’” Anderson noted. “Those guys had a lot of respect for me as a defender and they looked up to me to take on the task, and I did that.”

Taking on that task was something that would help him add to an already eerie NBA playoff day. Earlier that day, Reggie Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to lead the Pacers over the Knicks in game one of their series, and the Rockets managed a huge comeback win over the Jazz on the road in Salt Lake City.

Obviously, Jordan was the man the Bulls wanted to have the ball, and he wound up taking the inbounds pass. Anderson was the man defending him and he quickly reached in for a steal. He came up empty and that allowed Jordan to spin and get in front of him by a couple of steps. He never gave up, though, and chased behind Jordan as he crossed the half-court line with 13.2 seconds left.

Here is how Anderson himself remembers the play.

“I can remember them inbounding the ball, and he got one step ahead of me, so he went around me and he was looking for me to come up over his left shoulder,” he said, staring at the floor as if he was replaying the images in slow motion. “So he glanced over his left shoulder, but I was coming up the right side… and I got… I got a clean swipe at the ball when the ball was coming up. I was right there with my left hand and I got a clean swipe. It was just like… I could have palmed it actually.”

Anderson sat in his seat, continuing stare deeply into the floor while explaining the play. He extended his right hand out, motioning how the ball came up off of the court, and extended his left hand out to show how he swiped at the ball, and continued on…

“Just got a clean swipe at the ball because he looked over his left shoulder and I was coming up his right side. And I knocked the ball straight to Penny Hardaway. He got it, pushed it and threw it ahead to Horace and Horace got the dunk with Toni Kukoc coming right behind him, two steps behind him. And I can remember, the crowd just, I mean, I thought the arena was going to cave in because there was a roar that you couldn’t imagine. But I never looked at it like that. I just looked at it like I was making a defensive play. But, it happened to be against the best player in basketball,” he finished, with a smile crossing his face.

That defensive play put the Magic up by one point over the Jordan-led Bulls with 6.2 seconds remaining in the game. Jordan and his teammates walked off the court for a timeout dazed and confused, trying to figure out what had just happened.

The most clutch player in the history of the game had just turned the ball over and lost the lead, rather than icing the game as everyone unattached to the Magic thought he would do.

Still, with 6.2 seconds remaining on the clock, it was Jordan with one more opportunity to win the game.

The Bulls inbounded the ball to Jordan near the half court line and he drove to the paint, beating his defender, Donald Royal. He was met there by Anderson, who sagged off of Scottie Pippen, who stood in the corner at the 3-point line. Pippen, who also thought Jordan was going to shoot, ran to the basket hoping for an offensive rebound. In mid-air, Jordan attempted a pass to Pippen and threw the ball out of bounds. That was his eighth turnover of the game, which was a career high.

The Magic finished out the remaining seconds of the game and took game one at home in Orlando, mostly due to Anderson’s steal.

After the game, Anderson was asked by reporters what he thought of “The Steal” and he replied that it “didn't look like the old Michael Jordan.”

“I didn’t mean any disrespect in answering that question, but that’s how they put it,” said Anderson. “The media can take things and just blow it up out of perspective and make it more than what it really is. And I think MJ, you know obviously it was said to him in the other locker room or on TV ‘Nick Anderson said number 45 isn’t like number 23’ and I be darned, game two, here’s number 23.”

Jordan took offense to the statement and came out in game two with his old number and his mind set on winning. But the momentum from Anderson’s steal and Horace Grant’s dunk carried throughout the series, propelling the Magic past the Bulls in six games and into the East finals.

“Chicago was a dominant basketball team,” Anderson says. “They were well coached, you had Toni Kukoc, Pippen, Jordan. You had the other host of supporting cast. We knew it was a good challenge for us and when we defeated the Bulls in that playoff series it gave us even more confidence. Our confidence was really, really high. That was a good opportunity for us to take the next step.”

The Indiana Pacers were Orlando’s next roadblock to the finals. The Magic used their confidence to knock the Pacers out in seven games, advancing them to their first finals appearance in franchise history.

Unfortunately, waiting in the finals were the defending champion Houston Rockets, who swept the Magic in the finals 4-0.

Still, 13 years later, the moment that the Magic fans and organization remember is that steal of Michael Jordan.

Is it legendary players make legendary plays? Or legendary plays make legendary players?

Either way, Nick Anderson will always be considered an all-time Magic great.

Why do you think his nickname is the Magic Man?

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | August 26, 2008

Family Vacation Spawns Career Longevity

When vacationing in Orlando after his graduation from Marshall University in 1988, Rodney “Sid” Powell was certainly cognizant that a new NBA franchise would soon be starting in the city and he thought it would be advantageous to send his resume the Magic’s corporate office.

“My girlfriend at the time (now wife), her mother lived here in Orlando and we were visiting,” explained Powell, who is one of four front-office employees that have been with the organization since its inaugural season. “I saw that the Magic were starting up, and I had read the articles on Pat Williams and what he was doing and I decided to send a resume to him.”

Sending his resume to Williams was one of the best (and perhaps only) career moves Powell has had to make.

The 44-year-old father of three spent his first three seasons working in the Magic’s box office as a season ticket sales representative. In 1992, Powell happily transitioned into the basketball operations department, where he has worked for the last 17 seasons.

As team operations manager, Powell has dual roles as both equipment manager and travel coordinator. In addition to planning all team flights and hotel stays, he is responsible for the ordering, daily maintenance and supervision of all player practice equipment, game uniforms and player shoes.

As a veteran of his profession, Powell has developed certain locker room rules and if a player breaks one, he has to pay, or smell, the price.

“I give the players the three-strike rule,” explained Powell, a Vienna, W.Va. native. “Like Marcin Gortat, he would leave clothes lying around the locker room and wouldn’t put them in the dirty clothes pile. I told him on the third strike he’d pay the piper. Then one day he got his stuff back and it hadn’t been washed.”

Pranks aside, Powell is as serious about getting an NBA Championship as anyone in the organization. He was on the brink of being a part of a championship Magic squad in 1995 and wants nothing more than to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“Getting a ring, that’s what we all shoot for, that’s the ultimate,” said Powell. “To have the team we have now, which I think is very good, that get’s you thinking and motivated to get a ring. I think that’s the goal of anyone working for a professional sports team. That’s my goal and that’s what I think we are all shooting for. It’d be nice to get it on our 20th year.”

Being at all practices and games, ‘Sid” has a unique, inside look at the team. So, take a look at “Sid’s Short List.”

1. Best Dressed: “Has to be Dwight Howard, when he gets dressed up, he looks pretty good. But a close second is Tony Battie.”

2. Worst Dressed: “Hands down Hedo Turkoglu.”

3. Magic player he would trust to baby-sit his three kids: “Jameer Nelson, he’s just like them height-wise.”

4. Best Singer: “Certainly not Turk [Hedo Turkoglu], you couldn’t understand him. It’s got to be Dwight Howard.

5. Essential at practice: “Gum, and lots of it, and bottled Gatorade.”

6. Nickname: “Back when I was a little heavier, Jameer used to call me STUFF (The Magic’s Mascot) and when little STUFF (miniature version) would run on the court I would say to him in the huddle, ‘Hey Jameer, look, it’s you!’”

7. If Sid was locker room disc jockey: “I’d play country, but they won’t listen to that, so I get updated every year on new R & B and hip-hop. Every now and then I’ll pick up on a song and start singing it and the players will get a kick out of that.”

8. Magic player with the greatest desire to win: “It’s got to be Rashard Lewis. His whole routine before every game is the same, the number of shots he takes, what he does in the locker room. His routine is a sign of his commitment to win.”

By Marc D'Amico | August 20, 2008

Experience Center Is The Real Deal

A few weeks ago the Orlando Magic held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Orlando Events Center being built in downtown Orlando, bounded by Church Street, Hughey Avenue, South Street and Division Avenue

I attended the event to celebrate the huge step forward that the Magic organization and the city of Orlando were taking together. This is a building that will change the Magic organization for the next 20 years and change the dynamic of downtown Orlando as a whole. It truly was an important day in Orlando history, and it was a great day for everyone who could be a part of it.

Still, realize where the hundreds of other attendees and me were standing. We celebrated that morning on a block full of dirt. This is expected at a groundbreaking ceremony, as it is just that – groundbreaking. But with all of the celebration that morning, I couldn’t help myself from imagining what will one day be standing on that block of dirt; an incredible, state-of-the-art, 20,000 seat stadium that will bring the premiere sporting and entertainment events in the world to Orlando. I just wished I had a visual to go by, rather than picturing this building through my imagination.

Then came last Friday, the day those wishes were answered. I took a tour of the Orlando Magic’s Experience Center and it was quite the experience, answering every question possible. Want to know updates on the construction? Check. Want to walk through the bar and suites of the future Events Center? Check. Want to actually sit in your seat and see the view you’ll have for any given event? Check.

That’s right, you can literally sit in a suite seat and experience the view and surroundings you would have at an event in the Events Center. It is absolutely incredible. The only things that were missing were 3D glasses and a virtual basketball game playing in front of me.

The tour is a three-step process, beginning with a description of the building while standing next to the to-scale model. This model allows tourists to take a look at what the arena will look like when completed, along with a laser pointer to show what is located where both inside and outside the stadium.

Next, a fly-through tour is shown on a flat-screen television. This tour gives a look at the view for every type of event, from basketball games to concerts to hockey games. The fly-through also takes the viewer through each level of the stadium, giving an up-close look at all of its bars and walkways.

Finally, that fly-through tour comes to life as the tourists are taken through three fully built rooms that mimic their exact layouts in the Orlando Events Center. First comes the regular Suite, which has a fully stocked bar, two flat-screen TV’s hanging on the wall to the right as one enters, leather couches and seats centered in the room, the left wall lined by flat table-top burners, a sink, an ice chest, and a refrigerator, and beyond it all is a floating island to rest your drinks and food on. On the other side of the island comes the seats, which sit two rows deep and give you a view of the court via projector. The walls to each side are covered by the view of the arena one would have from these seats, with fellow suites to the left and right and the court out in front of you.

After leaving the seats of the Suite, the tour continues into the Loge Boxes. These boxes are full of leather, desk-like roller-chairs lined along a granite table-top running the length of the box, about 15 feet. The boxes are a comfortable size and are planned to be served by waiters and waitresses.

Next to the Loge Boxes, tourists are brought into the Super Suite. This is the kind of suite that I’m pretty sure I will never, ever be in, aside from that moment in time, if you know what I mean. This is the luxury of luxury boxes. The Super Suite room is probably triple the size of the regular Suite room. Once again, TV’s and couches are available for lounging, and martini tables surround the room for the more personal conversationalists. These suites are planned to be butlered and will most likely host parties and other large groups. Club seats are located at the front of the Super Suite to show their view of Events Center entertainment.

After touring the suites, the next stop is the bar, the spot we all know we’re interested in. This bar isn’t built to actual size (it’s about one fifth of what will be at the Events Center), but still gives a great idea of what it will look like and the feel it will have. The bar is well decorated by lights, martini glasses and tables of Magic decor, comfortable booths and pillows and lastly the fully stocked bar, which is centered in the room. It is about one third the length of the room, with open space to its left and right to allow guests in the booths to continue enjoying their event while grabbing a drink away from their seats.

When my tour group exited the mock-rooms, it was odd to realize I was still in a regular building. Walking through the Experience Center made me feel like I was already in the arena built on that dirt I stood on just weeks before at the groundbreaking ceremony. Sadly, I wasn’t. But gladly, it will soon be here.

If this experience tour proves anything, it’s that the Orlando Events Center will be the cream of the crop. With state-of-the-art construction, incredible views and a comfortable atmosphere, it will be sure to make limitless memories in Central Florida for years to come. If you want a real taste of what is being built in downtown Orlando before it’s even here, the Experience Center is definitely where it’s at.

Tours are given to perspective Suite, Loge Box and Club owners. If you are interested in purchasing any of these items and scheduling an Experience Center tour, please call 407-86-MAGIC to get more information.

Marc D'Amico is an intern in the Magic’s Interactive Marketing department.

By Dan Dugger | August 11, 2008

Twenty Years Later: From Backcourt to Front Office

In the midst of family photographs and surrounded by basketball literature, he sits at is his desk, carefully examining his recently written to-do list. On the wall to his left hangs a dry erase board, with the “ideas of the day” inscribed upon it.

But most symbolically, seated above his desk in an enclosed glass case is a purposely deflated basketball. A reminder that one day, the air will run out.

One day, a player’s career will be over.

Morlon Wiley, the Orlando Magic’s Director of Player Development, uses the ball to emphasize the brevity of professional athletic careers to his players.

“When your playing days are over, when the phone doesn’t ring anymore, you need to have an exit plan,” said Wiley, who was the first player to sign with the Orlando franchise in 1989. “The bottom line is that this is about character building, helping these young men become pillars of their communities and examples for their families and for our society.”

The New Orleans, La. native possesses a passion for helping people in all walks of life. He recently spoke to a group of African-American teenagers who were visiting the Orlando Magic’s corporate office on a behind-the-scenes tour in conjunction with the National Urban League Youth Leadership Summit, encouraging them to attend college and pursue a career in professional athletics.

Upon exiting, Wiley handed each of the teens his business card and encouraged them to keep in contact. Briefly fascinated by his openness and generosity, most students probably weren’t aware of the wealth of wisdom contained on the 2-by-3 ½-inch business card.

Wiley is all about abetting all people he comes in contact with and perhaps that is why his front-office role is so fitting. He is constantly contemplating how he can further aid and develop his players.

Not just developing the left-handed hook or the baseline jumper, but developing them as individuals.

“My main thing is trying to develop young men,” stressed Wiley, who has even taken young front office professionals and interns under his wing. “You want to always give them some words of encouragement and a pat on the back. People did it for me, and I always want to give back.”

Wiley is also disarmingly self aware of the financial foolishness that seems so ubiquitous in professional sports.

“I think from a minority perspective, it would be a shame for them to be granted a lottery ticket so to speak, and when it’s all said and done, when their playing days are over, they have nothing,” Wiley said.

He works feverishly to make sure his players aren’t the subject of a financial tragedy and are prepared to embrace life upon retirement.

“Make as much as you can, save as much as you can and give away as much as you can,” is the gospel Wiley preaches to his players. “Delayed gratification is the number one thing in this professional life. You don't need 10 cars and five houses unless you’re a car dealer or a landlord.”

Wiley placed a recent article - about professional athletes squandering their millions - in the lockers of each of the Magic’s summer league players, along with his business card and cell phone number.

“Sometimes players just need a little reminder,” Wiley said.

More than two decades removed from his college days at Long Beach State, where he was a four-year starter on the 49ers basketball team, Wiley stresses that he is still a student.

“I’m constantly learning and growing,” said Wiley. “I ask a lot of former and current players how they handled situations and I pass that along to my players.”

One of his current players, Dwight Howard, personifies a unique opportunity for Wiley to mentor one of the league’s most popular and dominant players.

“I think the main thing for Dwight is balance,” said Wiley of the two-time NBA All-Star and Olympic center. “Just to make sure he leaves some things on the table, because he doesn’t need to do everything. He’s got a good support group along with a general manager in Otis Smith and Joel Glass, the vice president of communications, that are understanding.”

Wiley’s office sits within a bounce pass from Smith’s, and each time he passes by his former back-court mate’s door, he is reminded of the accolade that escaped him as a player, but that which he longs for as an administrator: an NBA championship.

Gracing the front of Smith’s entryway is a poster of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one of the most sought after prizes in all of professional sports.

But it is an accomplishment Wiley believes is within the Magic’s grasp.

“I think that in our current time, we have just as good of a chance to win a championship as anybody,” said Wiley. “The mission of our team is to get there.”