Greatest All-Time Starting 5: Orlando Magic
Here at Off the Glass we’re taking on the arduous task of going through every NBA teams’ greatest possible starting five, using players that have played for that franchise. A player at each position (Point Guard through Center) will be selected, along with a 6th man who can be any position.
This is how it works:
Players selected must have played at least two full seasons for the franchise
The selection will be based on a combination of statistics, accomplishments/accolades and their significance to the franchise in question
Players had to have predominantly played at that particular position for at least one season to be eligible
Let’s get started.
Point Guard – Penny Hardaway: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway could possibly have gone down as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history had it not been for injuries. At only 26 years old, Hardaway suffered a dreadful injury to his left knee and he would never fully recover.
Before the injury however, Hardaway at 6’7” was drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson and along with Shaquille O’Neal, led the Magic to NBA Finals in 1995. He could score, rebound and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Penny would go on to join the Phoenix Suns after Shaq bolted to the Los Angeles Lakers, and it was there that he would require 2 further microfracture surgeries on the same left knee. Although he returned to the league once again, his career had been devastated and he was never as effective as he once was.
During his time with the Magic, Penny was an All-Star 4 times, All-NBA 3 times and in 1996 he finished 3rd in MVP voting.
Shooting Guard – Tracy McGrady: Once again, we are talking about a player whose career was ruined by injuries. With that being said, his 4 seasons in Orlando were likely the healthiest of his career and it was there that we really saw what T-Mac was capable of.
His combination of explosive athleticism and virtuous skillset left defenders frustrated on a nightly basis as he led the league in scoring for both the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He managed to carry an awfully average Orlando team to the playoffs for three straight seasons, but unfortunately could never advance passed the first round (something that would haunt him for his entire career).
During his time with the Magic McGrady averaged 28.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 5.2 APG, he was named an All-Star and All-NBA all 4 years, and was at the top of the MVP discussion every year. Although McGrady would later be constantly hampered by a list of injuries, his time in Orlando proved he was one of the greatest talents in league history.
Small Forward – Grant Hill: At this point it’s starting to look like playing for the Orlando Magic is an NBA curse. Yes, a third player whose career was derailed due to serious injury. Although Grant Hill would go on to have a long and successful career, he was never able to recapture his pre-injury heights.
With that being said, Hill’s career with the Magic was quite successful. He missed 2 full seasons due to horrific ankle injuries, but he always bounced back quite well. After missing the entire 2003-3004 season with an ankle injury, Hill came back to average 19.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 3.3 APG and was rewarded with his only All-Star selection after the injury problems began.
Although only a shell of his former self, Hill managed to put together 6 very good seasons in Orlando, and carried them to a playoff berth in 2007. Had it not been for the ankle injuries, however, Hill would likely have continued to be a perennial All-NBA and MVP candidate.
Power Forward – Horace Grant: Although Horace Grant is likely better known for his time with Michael Jordan as a Chicago Bull, he also had a solid 7 year run with the Orlando Magic.
Grant was a throwback big man; he was tough, gritty, scored with efficiency and hit hard defensively. He was also a great locker room guy, and the experience he gained from his 3 NBA Championships won with the Bulls would carry over when he helped a Magic squad led by Shaq and Penny to the NBA Finals.
His statistics are nothing to write home about, but Grant selected to the All-Defensive team 4 times, and was an All-Star in 1994. He was a true competitor and a genuine winner, who came to play his role each and every night.
Center – Shaquille O’Neal: Shaquille O’Neal is the greatest player to ever wear an Orlando Magic jersey, and the discussion isn’t even close, and although he was only there for 4 seasons, they were 4 seasons of pure dominance.
When was the last time we saw a rookie average 23 PPG, 14 RPG, and 3.5 BPG? Well that was Shaq’s stat line in his first season and it only improved from there. Shaq would end his time with the Magic with averages of 27.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG and shot 58% from the field.
He led the league in scoring for the 1995 season, was named an All-Star all 4 seasons, was selected to the All-NBA team 3 times and led the franchise to the NBA Finals for the first time in 1995. Although he would go on to leave via free agency when his rookie contract expired, there is no doubt that he was by far the greatest player in franchise history.
6th Man – Dwight Howard: And once again, we get to a player who has been shadowed by the injury bug.
If Shaq is the undisputed best player in Magic history; Dwight has to be the most underappreciated – maybe not by Magic fans, but by everyone else. The downward spiral that has been Howard’s career since leaving Orlando is really quite sad. Although he brought some of the criticism upon himself, there’s no denying that the majority of it was unfair and unnecessary.
During his time with the Magic, Howard was an elite defensive force and managed to lead the team to the NBA Finals in 2010. He is the Magic’s all-time leader in Points, Rebounds, Blocks, Free Throws (believe it or not), and Win Shares, and perhaps has the most impressive resume in Orlando Magic history. He was named to the All-Star team 6 times, selected to the All-NBA First Team 5 times, selected to the All-Defensive team 5 times, and as a starter helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics – all as a member of the Magic.
Did I miss any of your favorite Magic players? Let me know if you agree or disagree – @awrxshxx