Magic Classic Wins: Oct. 13, 1989 vs. Pistons

Fox Sports Florida will broadcast this game on Saturday, April 18 at 8 p.m. ET
by John Denton

ORLANDO - Oct. 13, 1989 wasn’t so much as the date of the first game in Orlando Magic history as it was a glorious celebration for all that Central Florida had accomplished in finally becoming a home to pro sports.

Of course, it only added to the fervor of the party-like atmosphere when the Magic ultimately toppled the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons in a preseason game that had the noise, bluster and intensity of the NBA Finals to the home fans.

``We beat the World Champs that night and everybody thought we had won the NBA championship that night even though it was just a preseason game,’’ Magic Hall of Fame forward Nick Anderson said of Orlando’s 118-109 defeat of the Pistons on that 1989 night. ``I just felt so good for the fans because everybody had worked so hard to that point to get an NBA team here. You could just see a joy coming over the fans. They were new to basketball, professional basketball anyway, and it was a great moment for them. And it was a great win for us, too beating the defending champs.’’

With the NBA season suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, Fox Sports Florida will be using the next two weeks to show select classic games from the Magic’s 31-year history. Where better to start than the first-ever game in franchise history – the Oct. 13, 1989 preseason game that was anything but meaningless to a Magic fan base and Central Florida area that finally got to experience big-time professional sports after several failed dalliances with various football and baseball minor-league teams? Fox Sports Florida’s rebroadcast of that joyous first Magic game will be at 8 p.m. on Saturday night and it will be replayed on Tuesday (6 p.m.) just prior to TV coverage of the Magic’s first-ever regular-season victory – a 118-110 win over Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks on Nov. 6 of 1989.

That first preseason game was a celebration of all that co-founders Pat Williams and Jimmy Hewitt – both of whom have since been inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame – accomplished in bringing the NBA to Central Florida. What started as something of a pipe dream turned into an incredible long-shot reality when Williams sold NBA owners and the league’s Expansion Committee on the vast potential of Orlando as a big-time sports city.

``I’ve gone on record many times in saying that Pat Williams is just a genius to be able to see Orlando’s potential,’’ said Jeff Turner, a power forward on that first Magic team and now a television color analyst for Fox Sports Florida.

``I grew up here in Central Florida and as a kid you didn’t have any local teams, necessarily, to support, so maybe you were a Braves fan in baseball because that was the closest thing you had to you or a Dolphins fans because that’s all there was in the state of Florida,’’ Turner added. ``But to be a part of sports coming alive in Central Florida, it was great. We had had Minor League baseball and football, but to be a major league sports town for the first time was special. Pat envisioned it, he saw it and he made it happen.’’

With a sellout crowd of 15,077 roaring with noise and raw energy inside the Orlando Arena, the Magic sent those fans home happy with a defeat of the rugged Pistons, which oddly kept stars Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer in the game deep into the fourth quarter out of competitiveness. Grizzled NBA veterans Reggie Theus, Jerry Reynolds, Terry Catledge, Otis Smith, Scott Skiles, Sidney Green, Dave Corzine and Turner made up the core of an Orlando team centered around Anderson, an All-American wing player out of the University of Illinois who ultimately became the first draft pick in Magic history. To this day, Anderson is still the franchise’s all-time leader in games played in Magic pinstripes (692) and second in points (10,650) and minutes played (22,440).

``Me being a young rookie, I had the opportunity to watch the majority of the guys that I was teaming up with, guys like Dave Corzine, Sam Vincent, Sidney Green and Reggie Theus, who played for the Bulls while I was growing up in Chicago,’’ Anderson recalled. ``So, I was familiar with all those guys, they were veterans and they taught me a lot about NBA basketball. To be able to learn so much from them, it was a great experience.’’

Green, whom the Bulls had made available to Orlando in the 1989 expansion draft, got an early indoctrination to the excitement in Orlando when fans lined up outside of his Tuskawilla-area home and cheered him before he headed to the arena. That excitement of the fans was infectious, and it spread throughout an appreciative Magic roster.

``For me, the thing that I remember the most was the crowd and the enthusiasm because everything was an unknown and we didn’t know how they would react to us,’’ Turner recalled. ``We’ve all seen bits and pieces of that (first-ever Magic exhibition game against Detroit), but it was a preseason game, the Pistons were the defending champions and you didn’t think the Pistons would care that much. I felt like, down the stretch, it was like, `Wow, this is really happening, and we can’t let this expansion team win,’ so Isaiah, Dumars and Laimbeer played pretty late into the game. I think they wanted to win that one, or necessarily didn’t want to lose it, but we were able to pull out the win.’’

Nobody was happier that night – according to many of those in attendance – than Williams, the pied piper of NBA basketball in Orlando. Of course, that first season of Magic basketball was a bit rocky – following a promising 7-7 start, they went 11-57 the rest of the way to finish at 18-64 – but Williams got to see a dream realized with that first Orlando victory over the reigning champion Pistons on Oct. 13, 1989.

``It was the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Stanley Cup all rolled into one,’’ Williams was quoted as saying years later in the Orlando Sentinel of the preseason victory and the ensuing celebration. ``Then, the real season started, and it ruined everything.’’

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA MAGIC CLASSIC WINS SCHEDULE

DAY

DATE

TIME

MATCHUP

REPLAY

Sat

4/18/20

8 PM

Magic vs Pistons (Oct. 13, 1989)

Tue, April 21 at 6 PM

Tue

4/21/20

8 PM

Magic vs Knicks (Nov. 6, 1989)

 

Thu

4/23/20

8 PM

Magic vs Lakers (Dec. 12, 1989)

 

Sat

4/25/20

6 PM

Magic vs Bulls (Dec. 20, 1989)

Tue, April 28 at 6 PM

Sat

4/25/20

8 PM

Magic vs Heat (Nov. 6, 1992)

Sun, April 26 at 9:30 AM

Tue

4/28/20

8 PM

Magic vs Bulls (May 7, 1995)

Sat, May 2 at 12 PM

Thu

4/30/20

8 PM

Magic at Bulls (May 12, 1995)

Sat, May 2 at 2:30 PM

Sat

5/2/20

5 PM

Magic vs Bulls (May 16, 1995)

Sat, May 2 at 5 PM

Sat

5/2/20

7:30 PM

Magic at Bulls (May 18, 1995)

Sun, May 3 at 9:30 AM

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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