CHICAGO – When the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft is in play, you break out all the superstitious stops.
Was it the gut-feeling that led to a last-second decision to switch from Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman to Head Coach Jamahl Mosley as the team’s representative on stage? Or could it have been the lucky ping-pong balls from prior lottery victories carried by Magic Chief Communications Officer Joel Glass into the sequestered room where the real selection process takes place? Perhaps it was the lucky wristwatch Cole DeVos wore that was owned by his late grandfather, Magic caretaker Rich DeVos? Maybe it was something done by a Magic fan that is reading this very story?
Whatever the case may be, it worked!
Faced with 14-percent odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Magic came away with just that on Tuesday night as they were awarded the top pick in the draft and smiles, hugs, and exhilaration overtook members of the organization in attendance.
“I was working on all of my breathing as it happened. My heart was definitely pounding,” said Mosley. “Again, it’s just that excitement for this fanbase. Excitement for our guys on the roster. Excitement for the organization just moving into that situation.”
The franchise’s contingent in Chicago were not the only ones enthused by the outcome. Fans at the team’s official watch party, co-hosted by The Sixth Man Show and presented by Michelob Ultra, erupted in excitement the moment it became clear the Magic would have the top pick. Similar reactions from Magic fans all over the globe could be found all over social media.
“I’m so happy for our fans tonight,” said Weltman. “They’ve really stuck with us and nights like this help. Where you can really show the fruits of why we go through these phases and cycles. So, hopefully they’re really excited by this. I think they will be. We’re going to add another really good player to our talent base. I think it’s an exciting night.”
This marks the fourth time in franchise history that the Magic possess the No. 1 overall pick. Their back-to-back pulls of the premier ping-pong ball during the team’s infancy enabled them to select future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal first overall in 1992 and then engineer a draft-night trade for Penny Hardaway and three future first round picks in 1993. Those moves instantly morphed the Magic into a 50-win club and helped propel them to their first Finals appearance in 1995.
In 2004, lady luck was once again on the side of Orlando as it landed the top pick and subsequently drafted Dwight Howard. The perennial All-Star center went on to win three straight NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards for the Magic and vaulted them to two straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, including a 2009 trip to the NBA Finals.
“We’ve seen what it can mean in the past,” said Magic CEO Alex Martins, who was with the organization for both of those memorable runs. “The past three times that we’ve won, it’s ultimately led us to an NBA Finals in both of those eras. Hopefully, this is a piece that can get us back into contention. You have to take it one step at a time, so getting back into contention, getting back into the playoffs, and ultimately, getting back to competing for a championship is our goal.”
Unlike many players who go to organizations awarded the No. 1 overall pick, this Magic team is not devoid of talent. The group currently features a number of lottery selections at its core, including Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., and Jonathan Isaac to go along with other promising young pieces such as Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, and Chuma Okeke.
“I’m so excited for what we’re growing and building with the Magic,” said Mosley. “We have the most amazing fans that have been so supportive and patient. They’re just willing and wanting us to continue to build our success the right way. And that’s what we’re doing. When you add another competitive, young, talented, high-basketball IQ player to our group that’s already close knit together, it’s going to be very exciting.”