After 25 years of Orlando Magic basketball, a pattern seems to have developed. The Magic will acquire what they believe to be the next franchise player, enjoy some years of middle of the pack success or a couple of years as a contender, then deal with a messy divorce from superstars that want out of Orlando. This has happened with Shaq, T-Mac, and now Dwight Howard. There is a case to be made for Dwight’s jersey to be hanging in the Amway Center years from now, but what about the first 25 years? Have the Magic not had a player with the combination of loyalty and success that would put their number in the rafters?
I believe it is time to retire the number 25 in honor of Nick Anderson.
Magic CEO, Alex Martins has said that the Magic have established internal criteria for what warrants the retirement of a jersey. This criterion has not been made available to fans, so we can only speculate on what it would take to retire the jersey. With that being said, rather than trying to guess as to what Martins’ requirements are, I will be comparing the Magic with a franchise that has been established nearly the same amount of time as the Magic, has already retired players, and has had team success (so we know the franchise isn’t reaching due to a lack of team success). The team I’m going with?
The Miami Heat.
Currently the Heat have retired the jerseys of Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Michael Jordan, & have “Honored” the number 13 of Miami Dolphin great, Dan Marino. We can almost ignore the retirements of Jordan & Marino, being that neither of them ever played a second for the Heat. Alonzo Mourning was with Miami, off and on, for 10 years and came off the bench for Shaq during the 2006, NBA championship winning, Miami Heat. Tim Hardaway was the second best player on a team that made it to the NBA finals, & spent less than half of his professional career in Miami (5 years).
Let’s start with the criticism. I’m sure that my opinion may not be agreeable to everyone, especially readers who may not be familiar with what Nick meant to the Magic during his tenure. One could say he never won an NBA championship or wasn’t the team’s first scoring option (See T. Hardaway), but he has still more made field goals than anyone else in franchise history while playing behind both Shaq & Penny. Speaking of Shaq & Penny, you could say that Anderson was never an all-star, but realize that Anderson’s prime lined up against a great era of NBA shooting guards & was balloted, in the small market of Orlando, against the likes of Jordan, Dumars, Reggie Miller, and Grant Hill.
One thing that I know from watching Magic basketball over the years is that if you leave Orlando, the fans will remember. If you have ever been to a game when a former Magic star is playing in Orlando, you will hear boos every time that player touches the ball. For example, does anyone remember the first time Shaq came back to Orlando? The boos were louder than the announcer, and without Penny Hardaway, the Magic got the win on a last second three. Any guesses as to who hit that big shot while netting 30? Yup, it was Nick Anderson. It is easy to remember the 4 missed free throws in the 1995 NBA finals, but easy to forget Anderson stealing the ball from Michael Jordan to seal a victory. How many people remember Anderson scoring 50 points off the bench in New Jersey? More than likely, not as many as those who remember Shaq bringing down the basket that same night. Nick Anderson never demanded to leave Orlando.
After being traded by the Magic and retiring in 2002, Anderson eventually found his way back into the organization, serving as a community ambassador & also working for Fox Sports Florida as an analyst on the Magic pregame show. He was the franchise’s first ever draft pick, staying for 10 years, while leading the Magic in games played, field goals made, and steals, all-time. I think that Nick Anderson has done more than enough to have his jersey retired in Orlando. If not, Magic fans may be waiting quite a while before they have anything new to hang in the rafters. Meanwhile, maybe the Heat can retire Ricky Williams’ number while Magic fans all wait for a reason to do anything other than boo players moving on to better things, and Nick Anderson will still be in Orlando. He won’t complain & won’t keep it a secret that he loves Orlando. I can only hope the Magic do the right thing in return. Why not reward Orlando’s fan base, that has made wanting to leave cardinal sin #1, by honoring the only player that wanted to be here more than anywhere else?