Orlando Magic Players and Coaches Spend Time with Season-Ticket Holders at True Blue Appreciation Night
By John Denton
Jan. 16, 2014
ORLANDO – When good friends Troy Culley and Dean Halvatzis went in to buy two Orlando Magic season tickets two seasons ago they knew they would be securing some of the best seats inside the Amway Center for basketball games.
What they didn’t realize at the time was all of the perks outside of the games that come with owning Magic season tickets. From getting early opportunities to buy concert tickets to access to Magic players at events like Thursday’s True Blue Appreciation Night, Culley and Halvatzis were blown away at the opportunities offered to them.
So, there the two diehard fans were on Thursday night standing on each side of Magic standout rookie Victor Oladipo, the player they had just cheered for a night earlier during his career-high performance in a triple-overtime thriller against Chicago. Now, Culley and Halvatzis had their arms around a player many consider a future star for the Magic for years to come, and Culley was shocked at just how special he was being treated by the Magic as a season-ticket holder.
“Nights like this make it worth being a season-ticket holder, other than just the games, because you spend a lot of money and it’s an investment, but the Magic make it worth your while,” Culley said. “The Magic are more about the fans than the fans are about them sometimes. That’s the way it seems because the Magic go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.”
More than 1,000 Magic season-ticket holders were treated on Jan. 16 to an event at the Amway Center where they interacted, met and competed with Magic players and coaches. Head Coach Jacque Vaughn posed for pictures with fans on the FOX Sports Florida set, while Jason Maxiell and the Magic assistant coaches worked with fans on the floor in a “skills and drills” exhibit. When the fans weren’t shooting 3-pointers and free throws, many of them posed for pictures along the Magic bench or took snapshots of the logo at center court.
Up on the concourse, Oladipo, Kyle O’Quinn and Doron Lamb posed for Instagram pictures with fans that formed a line that snaked more than 100 yards long. In other areas, Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Ronnie Price posed for pictures.
Oladipo, who played an exhausting 57 minutes a night earlier (against Chicago on Jan. 15) and became the first rookie in Magic history to record 35 points and eight assists in the same game, was full of pep because he wanted to return the love to fans who have supported him all season.
“To come out here and see fans of all ages – little kids, grandmothers and grandfathers – I want to thank them because they always support us and that’s huge,” Oladipo said. “It’s a blessing from God for these people to acknowledge me and to support our team. We just have to keep getting better so that these fans will have something to come out and watch.”
At the end of the event, all of the Magic players answered five questions submitted by the fans. Vaughn proclaimed himself to be the best baseball player on the team until Nelson reminded him that he once hit two home runs during batting practice before a Philadelphia Phillies game. Then, players told fans about their favorite restaurants and favorite comedians and some, like Davis even told jokes.
“What do you call a cow with no legs?” Davis asked the crowd. “Ground beef. … You know I had to do a food joke because I kind of like food.”
Oladipo ended the night by showing fans that he is a man of many talents. An accomplished singer, Oladipo serenaded a half-dozen ladies with a soulful rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Vaughn was impressed by the strong turnout from Magic fans and he said he wanted to do whatever he could to show his appreciation for a fan base that has been extremely loyal the past two seasons. Vaughn said the energy from Magic fans kept his team going a night earlier as it pushed the Bulls into three overtimes.
“It’s extremely important for us to have a connection with the people who support us,” said Vaughn, who is in his second season as Orlando’s coach. “We want our fans to have a hands-on experience to be able to talk to our players, take pictures with them and this to be a great interactive experience for them. We appreciate them yelling for us and continuing to support us. And we want them to know that a lot of great times are going to be shared together in the future.”
Deltona’s Scott Pope had to miss Wednesday night’s triple-overtime thriller because of a conflict, but he made a point of coming to Thursday’s event so that his son, Jacob, could celebrate his 12th birthday around the Magic players and dancers. Jacob got to play Pac Man against Maurice Harkless and E’Twaun Moore and he was personally wished a happy birthday by Magic Dancers Emmy and Priya.
Scott, who has been a season-ticket holder for 21 years, said he loved events like Thursday’s so that he can express his loyalty to the players and coaches. He feels the Magic have the right young pieces in place to be back competing for a championship in the coming years.
“This is an awesome event and it’s a good way to get to know the guys,” Scott said. “This timing tonight was perfect because it’s Jacob’s birthday. … The future looks very bright for us, for sure.” As for Cully and Halvatzis, they had already picked out places where their pictures with Oladipo were going to go in their houses. Halvatzis has closely followed the team’s rebuild and he thinks the Magic are on the right track because of the work of GM Rob Hennigan.
“It’s great to have the fans out here for a meet-and-greet so that they can get to know the players a little bit,” Halvatis said. “I watch them every night on TV (for road games) and come out here to the arena for every game. I feel pretty good about the rebuilding and I trust Hennigan, who I think is doing a tremendous job. Oladipo and (Tobias) Harris are going to be good ones. … Meeting Victor is something special that I will always cherish. That (picture) is going in the man room, for sure.”