Denton: Magic Honor Nick Anderson
By John Denton
Nov. 8, 2013
ORLANDO – Still stopped on the street to pose for pictures and asked for his autograph in the Amway Center, Nick Anderson has a legacy with the Orlando Magic that has lasted even longer than he ever thought it would.
After all, Anderson said when he was the first-ever draft choice of the Magic in 1989, he came to Central Florida simply to play basketball, nothing more and nothing less. But here he is now some 25 years later and he is still beloved by Magic fans. Anderson marvels at his luck of being an integral part of the fabric of the Magic all this time.
``I never expected anything like this when I came down from Chicago. I just came to play basketball,’’ Anderson said. ``These fans and this Magic organization gave me so much more. It’s an honor and a privilege to still be here in Orlando and I’m thankful and grateful for the opportunities given to me.
``It could have been someone else, but I was chosen,’’ Anderson continued while shaking his head. ``So for those reasons, I thank the fans for all of the support that they have given me good, bad and in different.’’
Anderson was given support in the form of a standing ovation Friday night when he was honored as part of the Magic’s legends series as the franchise celebrates its 25th anniversary season. Anderson was brought out to center court between the first and second quarters of the Magic’s game against the Boston Celtics and given yet another cheer by an adoring fan base.
Quite possibly no player is more central to the Magic’s history than Anderson, who played for the team from 1989-99. Sure, Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dwight Howard have had more star power, but Anderson’s legacy with the Magic has persisted because he never wanted to be any place other than in Orlando. Four years after he retired as a player, Anderson was back with the Magic in the role as Community Ambassador, a job he’s held for eight seasons.
``I’m just glad he’s still an ambassador for us and it’s great to still see him around,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of Anderson. ``He was a guy who could make shots and had a great way about him on the floor. I’m glad we’re giving him a little love.’’
Anderson said he will forever be thankful to Magic co-founder Pat Williams for drafting him out of the University of Illinois in 1989. Anderson said while he someday hopes to be a part of the Magic’s newly announced Hall of Fame, the first inductee should be Williams.
``Pat Williams will be the leader and everybody else will follow Pat because it’s his vision that the Magic are here, that I’m here and that every Magic fan is here,’’ he said. ``So I have to thank Pat for everything that he’s done for me. He was the one who drafted me and gave me an opportunity and I thank him. He’s a father figure to me.’’
Anderson 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.45 over his 10 seasons with the Magic. He and current Magic point guard Jameer Nelson are the only players in franchise history to play with the Magic for 10 seasons. His 10,650 points were the most in franchise history for years until Dwight Howard passed him three years ago.
When greeted by Magic fans, Anderson is still asked about the night in 1995 when he famously batted the ball away from Chicago superstar Michael Jordan to secure victory for Orlando in the second round of the playoffs.
Many of those same fans were there from the start – like Anderson – cheering the Magic on in their first-ever win – a preseason game against the Detroit Pistons in 1989. Anderson said that while the Magic don’t necessarily have the history of some organizations because of its relative youth, he has been amazed at how many Magic fans have followed the team throughout its 25-year history. And Anderson said it’s neat now to have an entire generation of Magic fans, many of whom still consider the former small forward with the big smile as their favorite player in Magic history.
``I’ll never forget that first win, winning against the Detroit Pistons who were World Champs at the time. Our fans thought we had won the NBA Championship,’’ Anderson said. ``We have fans that have been here since Day 1. Some have got on and jumped off, but most of them haven’t wavered. That’s amazing to me how loyal they have been to this franchise.’’
The loyalty of the fans is something that Anderson certainly doesn’t take for granted. He suffered through the low point in his career when he missed four free throws in the final seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, and his play proceeded to fall off in the years after that. But Anderson said Orlando’s fans always stuck by him with support and he’ll forever be thankful for that.
``Everything that has happened to me through the years with the Magic shows me the respect that this organization and these fans have had for me and I thank all of them,’’ Anderson said. ``They’ve given me the inspiration and they still drive for me.’’
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