1992-93: The Most Important Day In Franchise History

The franchise's luck changed on May 17, 1992, when it won the first pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. In the 1992 Draft Orlando selected 7-1, 301-pound Louisiana State center Shaquille O'Neal, the most coveted player to come out of college in several years.
Everything changed for the better when "Shaq" joined the squad. Dennis Scott, Terry Catledge, Scott Skiles, and Nick Anderson remained in the starting lineup, but instead of Greg Kite as the team's starting center, the Magic now had O'Neal. Injuries to Scott (28 missed games) and reserve big man Brian Williams (61 missed games) defused some of the team's momentum, but Orlando's 1992-93 record improved 20 games, to 41-41, marking the best turnaround in the NBA that season.

O'Neal, with his huge stature, shaved head, and bright smile, became one of the most recognizable figures in basketball, arguably second only to the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan as the game's top personality. On February 21 O'Neal started in the NBA All-Star Game at Salt Lake City. He was the first rookie to be voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985.

On March 27 the Magic recorded season victory No. 32, a new club record. And O'Neal wasn't the only Orlando player capable of making history. Dennis Scott hit a club-record 9 three-pointers against the Bucks on April 13, only one shy of the NBA record set a week earlier by Brian Shaw of Miami.

It was hard to steal the Shaq's thunder, however. In the same game that featured Scott's three-point barrage, O'Neal had 15 points and 16 rebounds, becoming the first rookie since Buck Williams in 1981-82 to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a season.

Three days later, on April 23, Nick Anderson toasted the Nets for a franchise-record 50 points, breaking Terry Catledge's 1990 mark by a single point. Anderson sat out the entire first quarter, then shot 17-for-25 from the field and 12-for-12 from the foul line.

Orlando ended its most successful season yet with a victory over the Atlanta Hawks. For the year, Orlando was strong at home, with a 27-14 mark, but the team struggled on the road at 14-27. The team climbed out of the Atlantic Division basement to finish fourth, just two games behind New Jersey. Despite its respectable 41-41 record, the Magic missed the playoffs because Indiana had the same record in the Eastern Conference and edged the Magic via a tiebreaker formula.

Nevertheless, it was a successful season that held much promise for the future. O'Neal led the team in scoring with 23.4 points per game. His 1,893 points on the season were a team record, as was his .562 shooting from the field. He also averaged 13.9 rebounds and rejected 3.53 shots per game. He was the only NBA player to rank in the top 10 in four categories, finishing second in rebounding, second in blocks, fourth in field goal percentage, and eighth in scoring. O'Neal was named NBA Rookie of the Year for 1992-93.

His achievements were all the more remarkable since many observers felt that O'Neal was a raw talent with unrefined skills who was getting by mostly on physical superiority. Nevertheless, as a personality, O'Neal had few peers. He appeared in advertisements for shoes and soft drinks, made a hit rap record called Shaq Diesel, and appeared in a movie about college basketball entitled "Blue Chips."

Nick Anderson provided able support for O'Neal, averaging 19.9 points and recording career highs in almost every statistical category. Dennis Scott and Scott Skiles each scored more than 15 points per game. Skiles continued to be an effective playmaker, handing out a career-high 735 assists (an average of 9.4 per game), third most in the league.

After the season the Magic made some changes on the bench. Matt Guokas stepped down as head coach. Orlando elevated assistant coach Brian Hill to the head coaching role. Hill brought with him 24 years of high school, college, and professional coaching experience, and was a popular choice among Magic players.

Having just missed the playoffs in 1993, the Magic entered the NBA Draft Lottery with the best record among non-playoff teams and the worst chance of winning the first pick. Only 1 of the 66 balls in the lottery machine had Orlando's name on it. Miraculously, that ball came up before any other, and Orlando ended up with its second straight No. 1 overall pick. The last team to have picked first in successive drafts was the Houston Rockets, which selected Ralph Sampson in 1983 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984.


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