Savage & Cohen: Greatest Moment in Amway Arena History
By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage
OrlandoMagic.com's Dan Savage and Josh Cohen wrote about some of the most memorable moments in Amway Arena history. But rather than debate between each other, they have opened up the discussion to all of you. Vote at the bottom on which moment you think is most unforgettable and discuss the topic in our message boards.
It would be easy to divide the 1995 and 2009 NBA Finals into two separate finalists, but in many ways, they were equally exhilarating and enchanting.
In 1995, on one hand, it was the first time the Orlando Magic advanced to The Finals, and as a result, it was the initial opportunity for the franchise to play under the national spotlight. The championship series featured an extraordinary matchup between Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, and ultimately became remembered for its Game 1 classic.
In 2009, on the other hand, the Magic had overcome several seemingly insuperable adversities throughout the playoffs to reach The Finals. They, for example, surmounted a 2-1 series deficit against the 76ers and Glen Davis and LeBron James game-winning buzzer-beaters. The Magic delivered a hard-fought effort in The Finals against the L.A. Lakers, who ultimately captured their 15th NBA championship.
Both years allowed the loyal fans of Orlando to experience something they will cherish throughout their lives, and for that, it is only appropriate to link the ’95 and ’09 NBA Finals together.
Unlike most NBA All-Star Games which focus mostly on dynamic dunks, dazzling deliveries and relentless offensive outbursts, the 1992 All-Star Game is remembered for something much more meaningful and prominent.
Just three months after his stunning announcement that he was retiring from the NBA after having been diagnosed as HIV positive, Magic Johnson returned to the hardwood and put on a performance for the ages.
The 11-time All-Star and three-time NBA MVP erupted for 25 points and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Perhaps the most heartwarming moment of the game was in the final seconds when Johnson received the pass, started backing down on Isiah Thomas before draining a 3-pointer to end the contest.
Watching the legendary champion receive the MVP award put tears in many of the eyes that were in attendance at the Orlando Arena that night.
Tracy McGrady will always be remembered as one of the greatest Orlando Magic players of all-time. His offensive skills will be hard to match for any current or future players that wear the blue and white.
It showed on March 10, 2004 against the Washington Wizards at Amway Arena (then TD Waterhouse) when the seven-time All-Star erupted for a franchise and career-high 62 points. He would have had plenty more if he didn’t miss 10 of his last 11 shots and nine free throws.
McGrady’s extraordinary performance became implausible when he started making circus shots. Although it didn’t count because the shot came after he was fouled, but McGrady buried a half-court heave midway through the fourth.
"My teammates came to me and told me to get 60, and then they told me to get 70," McGrady said, laughing, that night. "I was going for 70 and if I would have made my free throws, I would have had it. But this was a big night for me personally because it's been a long season. It's been a frustrating season, but this will give me a little boost."
It was perhaps the most “electrifying win” in Orlando Magic franchise history. It may not have been there most influential victory in club history because that honor goes to each of their NBA Finals berth-clinching triumphs (1995, 2009).
But, nevertheless, Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls was both memorable and astonishing.
The legendary Michael Jordan had returned from his baseball exploration, and many believed the Bulls would capture their fourth NBA title in five years. However, the Magic proved early in the series that Eastern Conference supremacy belonged to them that season.
With time evaporating on Orlando in the series opener, it appeared Chicago would “steal” home court advantage away from the Magic. Instead, Nick Anderson stole the ball away from Jordan and Penny Hardaway fed Horace Grant on a fast break to score the go-ahead dunk with 6.2 seconds remaining.
The Magic would ultimately win the series in six games and eventually advanced to the NBA Finals. If not for that remarkable win in Game 1, however, it is very possible Chicago would have captured seven NBA titles in the 1990’s rather than six. Many critics thought if the Bulls got past the Magic, they would have knocked off the Pacers and Rockets in the subsequent rounds. I guess we will never know – thanks to Orlando.
Some describe it as the most astonishing single play in Orlando Magic history. It was so miraculous it remains the premier poster picture hung outside of the team’s corporate office at the RDV Sportsplex.
On Feb. 9, 2007, Dwight Howard stunned the NBA universe when he slammed home a game-winning alley-oop off an inbound at the buzzer against the San Antonio Spurs. It was Howard’s first game-winning basket of his career.
Superman caught the pass from Hedo Turkoglu with 0.8 ticks left, leaped over the reach of Tim Duncan and flushed home a thunderous jam to excite the amazed crowd at Amway Arena.
“That was just freak athleticism,” J.J. Redick said of Howard’s play after that 2007 game. “We’ve all seen spectacular lobs and dunks, but I told him after the game: ‘Dude, I’ve never seen anything like that in that situation.”’
The dunk ranked among the most prolific on NBA.com and NBA TV’s top plays of 2007, and is regarded by some to be Howard’s most electrifying play of all-time. It remains one of YouTube’s most watched NBA videos as well.
One can only hope that one day Howard delivers a repeat moment during his career.
This moment centers around perhaps one of the greatest individual accomplishments in NBA history, let alone that of Amway Arena. It was so phenomenal that over 19 years later, its record still stands.
On December 30, 1990, then Orlando Magic point guard Scott Skiles dished out an NBA-record 30 assists against the Denver Nuggets, breaking the mark (29) set in 1978 by Kevin Porter of the New Jersey Nets.
After handing out assist No. 29 with about seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Skiles was informed by Magic Head Coach Matt Guokas that he was about to make history. With the pressure on Skiles went over six minutes without being able to complete the record-breaking dime. But finally, Orlando’s point guard connected with Jerry Reynolds, who knocked down a 20-foot jumper with 19.6 seconds left to seal the deal and send the crowd into a frenzy.
“I am proud to know that of all the great playmakers – guys like Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Tiny Archibald and John Stockton – I have more assists than any of them in one game,” said Skiles when asked to reflect back on that moment.
But Skiles accomplishment wasn’t the only sensational Magic feat to occur at Amway Arena (then Orlando Arena) in that contest. Orlando won that affair, 155-116, setting a team mark – which still stands – for most points scored in a game.
Which Amway Arena moment do you think is most memorable?