Jonathan Isaac Participates in Online Q&A With Magic Season Ticket Holders

Magic forward talked with fans about his charity work and answered questions about the health of his knee, his pregame rituals, his start in basketball and more
by John Denton

ORLANDO - Regardless of the forum – whether he’s out in public picking up food, attending church, doing charitable work or appearing virtually on a Zoom call – the first question that Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac gets from fans is usually the same one every time.

And, no, it has nothing to do with watching Tiger King on Netflix – something that Isaac tried briefly and, quite frankly, didn’t care for at all.

What Magic fans most want to know about the nearly 7-foot Isaac is the condition of the left knee that he severely sprained on Jan. 1 during an Orlando victory in Washington, D.C. With the NBA season suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the playoffs already pushed back by several weeks, fans are curious as to whether or not the Magic’s shot-swatting ace defender might make it back in time for the postseason.

``I’ve been getting that question from everybody and my answer has been the same,’’ Isaac said on Thursday night. ``If it does (work out), awesome … and if it’s doesn’t, bummer and I’ll get ready to strap it up for the next season. That’s pretty much where I am. I’m working every day with my rehab and if it lines up, if I’m 110 percent and everybody is comfortable with me playing, well then let’s do it.’’

Isaac, one of the Magic’s foundational pieces as an emerging star forward, answered questions about the health of his knee, his pregame rituals, his start in basketball, his time at Florida State University and his enduring faith on Thursday night in an online question-and-answer session with Magic season ticketholders. For nearly an hour on Thursday, Isaac took questions submitted by Magic season ticketholders to Fox Sports Florida sideline reporter Dante Marchitelli. As usual, Isaac was candid, open and engaging about how he’s tried to fill his time away from basketball for the past six weeks. One of the most important tips that Isaac offered to children looking to make it to the NBA was telling them the need to have strong character in everything they attempt to do.

``The biggest thing for me is always working on who you are as an individual,’’ Isaac said. ``What we do on the basketball court is only a percentage of what we’re called upon to do as NBA players. We’re teammates, we work for people and people who work for us. We’re a light to the community, kids look up to us and the media are always asking us something. So, who you are as a person and an individual is huge. It’s not just your game that gets you to the league; it’s your (character) that keeps you in the league.

``So much of it is, who you know, who speaks well of you, who you help, who you encourage and inspire, and who wants to be around you as an individual,’’ Isaac added. ``That part of what we do is huge.’’

Isaac, who was one of just two players in the NBA this season to rank in the league’s top 15 in both steals and blocks per game, regaled fans with tales of how unlikely his path to the NBA actually was. Hailing from a family that often preferred music over sports, Isaac only started playing basketball because of a Florida-based cousin who was already on an AAU team.

``Basketball was, like, just my calling, in a sense because it wasn’t something that I loved to do, and it just kind of fell in my lap,’’ Isaac admitted. ``I grew up in Bronx, New York for the first 10 years of my life and I’d just kind of play basketball at the rec center as a hobby with my three brothers.

``But when I moved to Florida with my mom, I had a cousin there (in Naples) and he played on an AAU team and I was tall and I got on his AAU team,’’ Isaac added. ``(Basketball) was just something that I did, and it wasn’t anything that I was actively pursuing. … Once I got into the EYBL, it was like, `I don’t know why I’m even playing basketball, but I’m good at it, I’m growing and it’s cool.’ When it was time to get recruited, I didn’t know anything about (college basketball). … I kind of came out of nowhere.’’

Of course, it helped out plenty that Isaac was rapidly sprouting up taller and taller with each passing year.

``My freshman year (of high school), I was just about 6-foot or 6-1, each year I was growing and growing, and I was always in pain, and my back was always aching,’’ Isaac said when asked by a Magic season ticketholder about his towering height. ``Every time I saw someone, they’d say, `Did you just get taller?’

``By my sophomore year, I was 6-4, junior year 6-7, senior year 6-10, and then 6-11,’’ Isaac continued. ``When I was a junior, I went to the foot doctor because I was having some pain in my Achilles and I was 6-6 or 6-7 at the time, and he was like, `Dude, your growth plates are wide open!’ He said, `You are going to be like 7-feet tall with a size 17 shoe.’

For the record, Isaac now wears a size 16 shoe and he responded to a fan question that his favorite shoe to wear out and about are the Jordan Ones.

Isaac also devoted a sizeable chunk of Thursday’s question-and-answer session to the work that he has done in the community to help feed those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isaac’s Orlando-based church, J.U.M.P. Ministries partnered with Project Life, Inc. to provide hot breakfasts and lunches to school-aged children five days a week. Over the past six weeks, Isaac said the organizations have served approximately 6,000 meals to children who often depend on free or reduced lunches when school is in session.

In addition to helping serve and deliver some of the meals to children, Isaac has taken a proactive role in making sure Project Life has had enough resources to keep doing the work that they have done. Isaac is hopeful that Magic fans will do what they can to help out by logging onto ProjectLifeNow.org to either donate food or finances to keep the drive alive.

``First, shout-out to the DeVos family, (Nikola Vucevic), (Aaron Gordon), (Markelle Fultz), Mo (Bamba) and all the guys who have done so many things in Orlando and at home where they are from,’’ Isaac said of the charitable work that the Magic have done for several weeks.

``I’ve been out with (Project Life) a couple of times handing out food. Kids can not only show up to the church to get food, but we’re also bussing food to lower-income areas so that kids can get food,’’ he added. ``Every Saturday, I’ve been going to Sam’s Club and buying up a bunch of nonperishables, cookies and snacks and things for them to cook and I drop it off at the church for them to prepare for the week coming up. I’ve also donated financially, and the more the word gets out, the more families that can be taken care of.’’

Isaac has been trying to take care of the knee that he injured back on Jan. 1 when he drove to the basket against the Wizards only to be accidentally tripped up by guard Bradley Beal. Isaac said he has been using the weights and stationary bicycle that he keeps in his downtown Orlando apartment to build strength and maintain flexibility in his knee.

At the time the NBA was suspended on March 11, the Magic had won three games in a row, six of nine and nine of 12 to pull within a half-game of the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The late-season rally was reminiscent of the 2018-19 season when the Magic went 22-9 down the stretch to bully their way into the playoffs.

When the season does resume, Isaac is hopeful that there will have been enough healing in his knee that he can get back out on the court with his Magic teammates. When asked on Thursday by a Magic season ticketholder about his favorite NBA moment, he recalled the go-ahead 3-point shot he made in Orlando’s Game 1 defeat of Toronto in the playoffs last spring. Now, he’s highly hopeful that he can answer all the questions about his knee and be back for another playoff run this spring.

``My knee is getting better by the day and I’m looking forward to getting back to the arena pretty soon here to get back to work on my rehab at the arena and not just doing it in my home,’’ Isaac said. ``But I’m in good spirits and looking forward to getting back on the court.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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