Denton: Amway Arena Retrospective

Denton: Amway Arena Retrospective

By John Denton
April 14, 2010

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard already has it all planned out. When the final game is played at Amway Arena -- hopefully two months from now – the Orlando Magic’s superstar center plans to take his favorite shower head with him and maybe even a few pieces of his locker as well.

And if Howard has his way, the final game will be a victory in the NBA Finals securing the first championship for the Magic. What better way, Howard said, than to close Amway Arena -- his only professional home – with a championship?

``We’re really going to miss this place, but all of us are looking forward to raising banners – really big banners – in the new arena,’’ Howard said with a wry smile. ``So that’s the goal right now and what we’re envisioning. We want to close this arena with a championship and open that new arena by raising a big banner. That would be an awesome way to do it.’’

The Magic’s championship chase will begin this weekend against the Charlotte Bobcats, but first the franchise must close out Amway Arena’s 21st and final regular season. The Magic will move into the sparkling, $380 million Amway Center just a few blocks away next October, and the dreams are that a truly grand opening will be one to celebrate a 2010 championship.

Amway Arena, one of the NBA’s most intimate and noisiest venues, has been host to many of the grandest moments in the 21-year history of the Magic. From the first preseason victory in 1989 against the defending World Champion Detroit Pistons to the Game 7 defeat of Indiana in 1995 that put the Magic into the Finals for the first time to the conquest of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East Finals last spring, Amway Arena has seen its share of magical moments.

Orlando lost its first regular-season game at Amway Arena on Nov. 4, 1989, falling 111-106 to the New Jersey Nets. Terry Catledge had the first basket and Otis Smith, now the Magic’s GM, had the first dunk. Odds are that Howard, the NBA leader in dunks each of the past four season, will have the final dunk in the building before the lights are turned out one last time.

Of course, Amway Arena’s most memorable moment of all was Nick Anderson’s steal of Michael Jordan in the second round of the playoffs in 1995, a play that resulted in a game-winning dunk by Horace Grant. Rarely does a game go by that Anderson isn’t reminded of the play that defined his storied career with the Magic.

``The fans remind me about it more so than me reminding myself,’’ said Anderson, Orlando’s first-ever draft pick. ``I get people all the time saying I was there that night that Nick Anderson stole the ball from Michael Jordan. The fans remind me, and it’s a good feeling that the fans remember and respect some of the things that I did out on the floor back in the day.’’

With so many memories from Amway Arena through the years, here are seven different viewpoints from Magic executives, coaches and players who have spent a major portion of their professional careers in Orlando: