While it may not be the ultimate factor that puts a team over the top, having a freakishly athletic player on the roster is always a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Not all super athletes have the complete game to secure a significant role on a team, but they surely will deliver some highlight reel plays throughout a season.
The Orlando Magic has had its fair share of top notch athletic studs in the franchise’s 20 plus years of existence, from Tracy McGrady to Dwight Howard. The focus on the Magic the last few years has been more so about what uniform Howard will don than on-the-court feats such as player athleticism.
But with the “Dwightmare” over, it’s time to discuss other aspects of the Magic organization. In the spirit of the ever-popular lists that people like to categorize sports-related issues by, here are the five most athletic freaks in Orlando Magic history.
While he might have only spent four seasons in Orlando, Shaquille O’Neal’s rawest athletic years were with the Magic.
He was lean and quick and had a unique combination of strength and athleticism for a 7’1” center. O’Neal threw down some of the most rim-rattling dunks that the city of Orlando has ever seen.
He was so quick in the post, where he would spin around defenders, opening him up for alleyoops and posterizing dunks. O’Neal was a more complete player in Los Angeles, but his first four seasons in the NBA were defined by his imposing athleticism.
Shaq didn’t rely solely on his height advantage and size in the post to score while in Orlando; he was a shark in the paint, flying throughout the mid and low post to gobble up rebounds and throw down putback dunks. The Big Fella's size and overall game dominated in Los Angeles, while his vicious athleticism dominated in Orlando.
An Orlando-Shaq related post can’t be mentioned without a reference to his most famous dunk—one that changed the construction of a NBA hoop.
Steve Francis had a rather uninspiring tenure in Orlando, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was a beast of an athlete.
“Stevie Franchise” spent less than two seasons with the Magic, but he certainly had some outstanding athletic plays in that time. Francis averaged 21.3 points, seven assists and 5.8 rebounds per game in his first season with the team, while delivering some memorable highlights.
Francis had one-of-a-kind hops for a 6’3” point guard and wasn’t afraid to showcase it. He was extremely quick and was very crafty in the paint, negating his lack of size and allowing him to be a driver.
He might have done some questionable things during his career, but one can’t question the man’s freakish athletic skills.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was the Orlando Magic’s first big-time superstar in the 1990’s (along with Shaq). He brought wonder and excitement to the city of Orlando in the franchise’s first years of existence.
Penny’s 6’7” stature made him an unusually large point guard and created tons of matchup problems for opposing defenders. However, it was his freak athletic ability that made him even more of a problem to guard.
Hardaway truly played above the rim and had a stellar ability to penetrate the basket. The Magic fan base was treated to some incredible dunks and drives, but also his awesome passing ability that made the Penny-Shaq tandem very fun to watch.
Unfortunately, Hardaway’s athleticism was destroyed by chronic knee injuries and his career went south at the end of his Orlando days. Still, Hardaway was a unique star who possessed a mix of scoring and facilitating skills in his prime that made him one of the Magic’s most intriguing athletes in franchise history.
Can any Orlando Magic all-time list be complete without Tracy McGrady? If Shaq and Penny were the franchise’s first stars, McGrady was definitely their successor.
T-Mac became a perennial All-Star in Orlando who used his remarkable athleticism to score at will. He used his lanky, 6’7” frame, coupled with his speed and agility to get to the rim effortlessly. Simply put, T-Mac could elevate and then provide explosive finishes.
Similar to Hardaway, McGrady suffered through many injuries while in Orlando. However, he played enough to deliver some outrageously athletic jams and around-the-rim scoring, to go along with his elite scoring ability.
While Magic fans may be bitter towards Dwight Howard for the circus act he pulled in his final few seasons in Orlando, there is no denying that he is the freakiest of freak athletes to grace the Magic franchise.
Seriously, have you seen the dude's shoulders?
Just like his predecessor in O’Neal, Dwight is blessed with an exceptional blend of speed, size, height and power. He is an unreal athlete for a 7'0", 265-pound big man and is an intimidating force on both sides of the ball.
He is capable of covering so much ground in the paint and can shock opponents with monster blocks or soaring through the air for a thunderous slam. It’s not a coincidence that Howard is the only player in Magic history to win a dunk contest; the man’s got some serious hops.
When you take a look at many other traditional centers in today’s game, from Andrew Bynum to Andrew Bogut, no one has the utter combo of jumping ability, speed and power that D12 contains.
Dwight doesn’t just impose his will with his sheer size and muscular frame, but he’s also a scary-good athlete. Dwight Howard’s athletic feats are dazzling, and he is without question the most athletic freak in Magic history.