Williams and Anderson Inducted Into Magic Hall of Fame
By John Denton
April 9, 2014
ORLANDO – Without Pat Williams, there almost certainly would never have been an Orlando Magic. And without Nick Anderson, there likely wouldn’t have been a defeat of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1995 and a run to the NBA Finals.
Largely for those reasons, Williams and Anderson make up the inaugural class of the Magic Hall of Fame.
As part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary season, the Magic announced in November the creation of a Hall of Fame that will be used to honor past players, coaches and contributors to the franchise’s rich history.
Williams, considered by many as the founding father of the Magic, and Anderson, the first-ever draft pick by the franchise in 1989, were announced on Wednesday at the Amway Center as the first inductees to the newly created Hall of Fame.
``Pat Williams and Nick Anderson are the Orlando Magic,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said following Wednesday’s ceremony. ``They are two of the foundational pieces that this franchise was built upon. If it weren’t for both of them – from Pat gaining the approval for the franchise to join the NBA and Nick being that first draft pick, being a part of that first team and taking us to the first Finals – we wouldn’t have gotten started in this journey to 25 years to date. So I think it’s quite fitting that they are the first two members to enter into this new Hall of Fame.’’
Williams and Anderson have pedestals that will be permanently placed at the Amway Center for fans to see. The two Magic legends will be honored once again Wednesday night during the Orlando’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets. Tipoff is just after 7 p.m. Williams and Anderson have already been honored this season as part of the franchise’s ``Legends Nights,’’ a program that has seen Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Tracy McGrady, Darrell Armstrong, John Gabriel and others return to Orlando this season.
Williams, who has worked in professional sports for more than 50 years, called Wednesday’s induction one of the highest honors of his life. Already a member of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Williams now adds the accomplishment of being the first person ever inducted into Orlando’s Hall of Fame.
``I think it’s the ultimate tribute to anyone in this business, whether it’s Cooperstown (for the Baseball Hall of Fame), Canton, Ohio (for the Pro Football Hall of Fame), Springfield, Mass. (for the Naismith) or Orlando, Fla.,’’ Williams said. ``There is, really, no higher honor. I’ve been blessed. When you get to this point in your career and your life to go into the Basketball Hall of Fame and this past fall into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, these are all overwhelming honors, really. So to be a part of this first class, it means an awful lot to me. And down the road it will mean a lot when these grandkids of mine are grown and come visiting to the arena and see that first plaque there, that’s a good thing. That’s a legacy. I’m honored by that.’’
Anderson was so moved by the induction into the Hall of Fame that he was overcome with emotion and openly wept at the end of his speech on Wednesday. Anderson said he owed so much to Magic owner Rich DeVos, Orlando fans, Williams and Martins for sticking by him throughout the past 25 years.
``To take a chance on me and give me an opportunity, it means everything to me,’’ Anderson said. ``Growing up in Chicago, I never envisioned anything like this. I always thought when you talk Hall of Fame the names that come up Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird and Cal Ripken. But for someone to consider my name for something like this, it’s an honor and a privilege. I’m so thankful and humbled. There’s not enough that I can say about being inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.’’
Williams first broached the idea of bringing professional basketball in Orlando in 1986 after giving a speech in Central Florida. Local developer Jimmy Hewitt took the initial lead on the project, lining up potential ownership, city backing and plans for an arena. But Hewitt knew the project would never come to completion without the influence of Williams, a successful GM with the Philadelphia 76ers at the time.
``Jimmy, in his unmistakable southern drawl, said: Bubba, we’ve gone about as far as we can go down here. If you come down here and spearhead it, we’ll go forward. If you don’t, we’ll pull the plug,’’ Williams remembered.
Ever the adventurer and salesman, Williams jumped at the chance of a new challenge and led up the group’s venture to bring pro sports to Orlando. Williams sold NBA leaders on the potential of Orlando as an emerging city and that was ultimately enough to sway the league to put an expansion franchise in Central Florida. And on Dec. 22, 1988, Williams made the announcement that Orlando had sold its 10,000th season ticket, clearing the way for its entry into the NBA.
``I came down here with no security and it was the ultimate risk, really, but I was excited about taking this risk,’’ Williams said. ``I wanted to create a team from scratch. That’s the ultimate challenge and ultimate joy for anyone in this profession and you don’t get to do it too often. I made the decision to leap out of the plane with no parachute. Those first months were exciting and intense, but also scary. There was no assurance of anything, we had to fight uphill and we were the little guy. But it was all worth it.’’
Williams, now a Senior Vice President with the Magic, said rarely does a day pass without him being greeted by a Magic fan who thanks him for bringing the franchise to Central Florida. Williams admits that at times he looks around at all the Magic have become and he’s floored by it. He knows that the Magic in Orlando will forever be a part of his legacy in sports.
``I think legacy means a lot because after we’ve left this planet, what are you remembered for? I hope that I will be remembered for coming down here (to Orlando) cold turkey and taking the ultimate gamble and make it happen,’’ Williams said.
The Magic had the No. 11 pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, and that June night they made Anderson their first-ever collegiate pick. Anderson had led Illinois to a Final Four appearance and he appealed to the Magic because of his versatility at a couple of positions and his toughness.
It was the start of a glorious run in Orlando for Anderson, who before this season was the only player in team history to wear a Magic uniform for 10 seasons. (Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson has since joined this season). Anderson has 18 years with the Magic – 10 as a player and the last eight as a Community Relations Ambassador.
For his career, Anderson averaged 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists and 1.45 steals a game. Anderson is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (692), minutes played (22,440), steals (1,004) and field goals made (4,075).
Anderson is best known for quite possibly the best and worst moments in Magic history on the floor. In Game 1 of the second-round playoff series against Chicago in 1995, Anderson came up behind Jordan and stole the ball to lead to Horace Grant’s game-winning dunk off a feed from Penny Hardaway.
That Magic team reached the NBA Finals in 1995, but it led a big lead slip away in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets when Anderson missed four free throws in the final minute. Through the many highs and lows, Anderson said the Magic have always been the rock that believed in him and stood by him. Anderson said being inducted into the first Hall of Fame class shows him just where he stands with the Magic organization.
``This shows me what they think of me and how they perceive me,’’ Anderson said. ``It makes me feel inside that I did something right somewhere down the line and they never forgot about that. This could have easily been someone else, but I was chosen for this. ``Like I said, it’s an honor and a privilege. I’m not a man to take anything for granted,’’ Anderson continued. ``This moment, for me, it brings nothing but joy.’’