Magic Honor Horace Grant
By John Denton
Jan. 17, 2014
ORLANDO – Stuck in the shadows of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and never fully appreciated for all of the dirty work that he did while playing in Chicago, Horace Grant knew things would be different in Orlando after two of the most joyous moments of his life.
Grant, who signed a free-agent deal with the Magic in the summer of 1994, was given a standing ovation by the Orlando crowd during his first preseason game ever with the Magic.
And when the Magic beat the Bulls in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1995, Grant was carried off the court on the shoulders of his Magic teammates after converting the game-winning dunk in the final seconds.
``In Chicago, I’d talk to Michael and Scottie and they appreciated what I did on the floor. But coming here (to Orlando), wow, that night when I did get the standing ovation, it was like telling me, these are some special people here,’’ said Grant, who was honored Friday as part of the Magic’s Legends Night to celebrate the franchise’s 25th Anniversary Season.
``The people in this community, these fans and this organization, all of that and this tonight are very humbling,’’ Grant said.
Grant played for the Magic from 1994-99 and 2001-03, averaging 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. He ranks fourth in franchise history in rebounds and fourth in blocked shots. Grant was waived from the Magic in 2003 following a dispute with former Orlando coach Doc Rivers and he said the two have since shaken hands and apologized.
Grant, who won four titles in his career with the Bulls (three) and Lakers (one), said to this day one of his biggest regrets in professional sports was not winning the title with the 1995 Magic team that got swept in the NBA Finals by the Houston Rockets.
``That’s one of the most gut-wrenching things that I’ve ever gone through professionally,’’ Grant admitted. ``To have such a talented team like we had then and to lose in the manner that we did, that’s something that I’ll never forget. And the players and coaches on that team will never forget. And that’s why I say to anyone who play professional basketball to seize the moment because you don’t know if you will ever get back to that place.’’
Grant said that he’s scheduled to have lunch with former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson in the coming weeks, and Grant said he would remind him about the Magic winning that 1995 playoff series. In addition to winning Game 1 with the dunk off the Nick Anderson steal and the Penny Hardaway feed, Grant played well in that series by making several open jump shots.
``Phil said we’re going to make Horace beat us. Then, when I started shooting the ball well, Michael and Scottie went to him and said, `Horace is open, let’s put somebody on him.’ But if you know Phil, he’s stubborn,’’ Grant said. ``But he left me open and we beat them that year.’’
Grant lives in Arroyo Grande, California, with his wife, three daughters and newborn son. In addition to working part-time for the NBA as a goodwill ambassador, Grant recently entered into a project where he will be building a state-of-the-art facility in San Luis Obispo for kids to use as an after-school refuse. Grant said there is a dire need for such a facility in Central California after several Boys and Girls Clubs were closed because of funding concerns. Fittingly, the facility will be named ``Area 54’’ in honor of Grant’s number during his playing days.
He said he still watches plenty of Magic games and he has hopes that head coach Jacque Vaughn can turn the team back into a winner again. As for Friday night’s recognition, Grant said he will forever be honored to have played in Orlando.
``It’s so humbling to have been a part of such a great organization and such a great team and a great community here in Orlando,’’ Grant said. ``To be honored with something like this, I really can’t put it into words. I’m just so grateful.’’