Rashard Lewis Participates in Instagram Live Q&A

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – What attracted Rashard Lewis, then a 27-year-old in his prime, to Orlando when he was a free agent during the summer of 2007? The pieces the Magic had at the time – notably Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu – was one thing that appealed to him. The positive vibes he got while meeting with the front office and coaching staff that offseason was also a big factor.

“When I went down to visit the Orlando Magic that summer meeting with Stan Van Gundy and Otis (Smith), it almost felt like it was home,” he said. “Florida wasn’t too far from Texas. Just sitting down with Stan in the limo, I remember riding over going out to dinner with him, it just made me feel real comfortable. It made me feel at home. And that was a big key to me coming to the Orlando Magic.”

That question was one of many fans on Instagram Live asked the two-time NBA All-Star during his hour-long virtual Q&A that was sponsored by Budweiser and Drizly and hosted by Magic broadcaster Dante Marchitelli. From his home in Houston, the former Magic great shared some of his fondest memories during his 3 ½ years in Orlando, expressed his optimism about the current Magic team, touched on ESPN’s docuseries, ‘The Last Dance,’ and more.

The timing of the Q&A was perfect considering Fox Sports Florida is in the middle of re-airing several of Lewis’ best games with the Magic from Orlando’s 2009 NBA Finals run. They include all the victories from the Magic’s unforgettable conference semifinals series win against the Boston Celtics, including Game 7 which airs on Saturday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.

That particular game was one of the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter’s most memorable games, as was the Game 6 clincher in the next round against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lewis scored 18 points that night against the Cavs at the old Amway Arena, where he and his teammates celebrated the franchise’s second ever Finals berth.

“It was just a great atmosphere, being with our fans in the city of Orlando so they can experience and have that winning feeling,” he recalls. “It was such a surreal moment at the time and I was happy we were able to do it on our home court.”

Lewis is still close with all of his former Magic teammates, including Howard, Nelson and Turkoglu. To this day, they still chat and reflect on their time together in Orlando.

Would Lewis, a 1998 second round NBA Draft pick, have embraced played alongside Michael Jordan if that had ever been an option during his career? While not for everyone, Lewis says he would have welcomed that opportunity and appreciated teaming up with one of the greatest winners in sports history.

“I would have loved it,” he explained. “I’m the type of guy that just wants to win and MJ is a winner. He’s a competitor. He wants to win championships. Maybe I could have been a Scottie Pippen. He’s everybody’s hero, but at the same time he’s the ultimate competitor and I can deal with things like that.”

Speaking of Jordan and the ongoing “G.O.A.T.” debate, Lewis chimed in. To him, it’s unfair to make the MJ versus LeBron James comparisons with James still playing and playing at a high level. He also thinks Kobe Bryant deserves to be in that conversation. Lewis played against all three during his career, although his games against Jordan were when the six-time NBA champion had come out of retirement to play with the Washington Wizards.

The now 40-year-old Lewis, who played for four teams during his NBA career and won a title with the Miami Heat, is confident the Magic of today are headed in the right direction. A big fan of several of the team’s young talent, including Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, Sweet Lew believes they have a chance to make some noise in the East in the coming years.

“What I want to tell the Magic fans is you have to be patient. Nothing happens overnight. It’s a building process,” he said. “I think they have great young talent that they’ve drafted the last couple years. It’s going to be some bumps in the road. A lot of ups and downs. That’s a part of life, that’s a part of basketball. You just have to stick with them like they stuck with us and eventually they will break through and I’m sure they will break through soon.”

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