Beloved Bo is a True Treasure
By Noah Sharfman
February 23, 2011
ORLANDO -- Bo Outlaw does not like the attention. As a player, Outlaw would often deflect attention away from himself while crediting his teammates for his individual success. When Outlaw was presented with the idea of writing a story about his commitment to the Orlando Magic, Outlaw was immediately uneasy with the idea.
“Man, you don’t want to talk to me,” Outlaw replied when asked for an interview for this story. Fortunately, Outlaw agreed to talk, a skill his friends will tell you he does better than anybody else. Outlaw’s story, one of hard work and determination, traits many use to describe the man who once donned goofy “rec-specs” and played his heart out in front of adoring fans.
Bo Outlaw’s 14-year NBA career was by no means easy. An undrafted rookie out of the University of Houston, Outlaw signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers in February of 1994, before signing his first guaranteed deal more than a month later in March of that same season. After two seasons with the Clippers, Outlaw signed with the Magic, the first of his two stops in Orlando. Despite having a lengthy playing career, year-to-year Outlaw proved and reproved his value to his team through his had work and persistence.
Of the most beloved teams in Orlando Magic history, many rank the heart and hustle teams as their favorite. Between 1999 and 2001, Outlaw was a key contributor to the Magic’s heart and hustle success. Together with teammates Darrell Armstrong and Monty Williams, Outlaw was a driving force on the court with his non-stop and relentless effort, which sparked a rag-tag group of players to great heights.
“Effort,” Outlaw said was the key to his heart and hustle style of play. “Back when we played, the court was surrounded by advertisement boards and I’m quite sure we hit those each game at least four times a game. Between (me and Darrell Armstrong,) we probably hit them at least eight times and people love that. Any ball that was loose we were on the floor or in the stands, we chased down to block shots, we took charges. We just tried to do anything to help our team win; that’s what it’s about. We weren’t the best guys on the court all the time but I don’t think anyone played harder than us.”
“A guy like Bo Outlaw made it easy to go out and play, because I knew those guys were going to play hard with me,” Darrell Armstrong said. “Bo was the same kind of guy I was. My energy and hustle were my strengths. My game was hustle and everybody (everything) else just fell into place. We had a team of guys that loved a challenge and we took on the challenge and we ran with it.”
For his efforts on the court, Outlaw became a fan favorite. At first glance, Outlaw’s career statistics with the Magic don’t jump off the page. He averaged 6.3 points per game and six rebounds per game in 360 games with the Magic. During his NBA career with four different teams (Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies), Outlaw averaged 5.4 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. But it was his work off the court that cemented his place in Magic history.
During his playing days with the Magic, Outlaw was as dedicated off the court as he was on it. His involvement in the community was rewarded and recognized by the Magic, as he became the first ever three-time winner of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award. Outlaw was also the first ever back-to-back winner of the Magic’s annual award that recognizes a player’s commitment to community service and involvement.
“Whatever I do I just try and work hard at it,” Outlaw said of his approach to community work. “If they ask me to do something I am going to do it to the fullest of my abilities and I am going to enjoy it. So if you have fun with it, it is a lot easier.”
These days, it is Outlaw’s job to talk. For the better part of the past four years, Outlaw has been a community ambassador for the Orlando Magic, promoting the Magic’s involvement in a variety of community outreach efforts with fellow community ambassador Nick Anderson. Outlaw talks at events promoting the Magic’s community involvement and he talks to fans about his playing days. Outlaw talks and talks and talks and enjoys every second of his current job.
“It’s such a great place to be and the people have accepted me,” Outlaw said about returning to the Magic as a community ambassador. “It’s such a great organization. If you enjoy what you are doing and you are helping the kids what more can you ask for?”
Outlaw’s impression can be seen throughout the history of the Orlando Magic. As a player he was revered by his teammates and as a community ambassador, he is beloved by the fans.
“We don’t have enough time (to talk about Bo),” former teammate and current New Orleans Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams said of Outlaw. “You would need a canvas board and some colored pencils and then maybe we could do a good job. He is the salt of the earth. Bo is Bo. Everybody loves him and for good reason; he works hard, always tries to help people out and doesn’t want any credit and is just fun to be around.”
Being “fun to be around” is a trademark of Outlaw. No matter what he is doing, Outlaw has fun and it can be seen in his wide smile that stretches from ear to ear. Whether it is interacting with fans during Magic home games or representing the team at community events, Bo Outlaw has fun.
“I don’t think you can have too much fun,” Outlaw said. “Never that; there is never too much fun, but the best part of my job is the kids. Seeing their reactions when you walk into a room is great. They will be all ‘wow you are huge’ and they’ll be looking up at you. It’s a great thing to see the kids when you walk in by yourself or with Nick (Anderson) or another player, it’s a great feeling.”
One of the most telling and insightful moments to Outlaw’s career came while he was having fun at the media’s expense. After recording one of his two triple-doubles in a Magic uniform, Outlaw was asked about his feat by a member of the media. Outlaw responded in a way only Outlaw could; “A triple-double? Isn't that some kind of hamburger meal? Three patties and two layers of cheese?”
“Yes, I said that,” Outlaw reluctantly admits years later. “I’m kind of the guy that doesn’t need the attention. I appreciate it, but go interview someone else. When I got a triple-double I wouldn’t have gotten it without my teammates. I tried to divert the credit to my teammates. I’m not going to be the guy that’s like ‘yeah I got a triple-double,’ it’s not about that, it’s about winning the game.”
To this day, and contrary to his own belief, everyone wants to talk to Bo Outlaw. And best of all, Outlaw talks back and it is even sometimes difficult to get Outlaw to stop talking. With a deep, booming and distinctive voice, Outlaw is hard to miss. You can hear him from across the room and probably from outside the room and across the street.
Behind the loud, boisterous and fun-loving exterior of Bo Outlaw is one of the most down-to-earth and genuine people to ever play in the NBA. As the league emerged from a lockout shortened season in 1999, Sports Illustrated wrote that Outlaw should be one of five players around which the league grows its popularity and that “to watch (Outlaw) is to remember that even in the ritzy neighborhood that is the NBA, there is still such a thing as a working man.”
Even now as a community ambassador for the Magic, Outlaw tries to deflect credit to those around him. He remains humble and unassuming in a very public role while allowing the current Magic players to ascend to the forefront. Outlaw has always said, “It’s not about me, it’s about we.” Tonight is about Bo.