It was about this time of the year in 1996. Our Orlando Magic was just eliminated from the Eastern Conference Finals. The previous year the Magic lost in the NBA Finals. So close but yet so far.
And it was all coming to an end. And we knew it. Or sure we were hoping. We were doing everything we could do to get the NBA's big fish to stay in our small pond. But deep down we knew what was coming.
And then one day it finally happened. Shaq announced he was leaving for the bright lights of L.A. He was going there to win championships. Why couldn't he win a title in Orlando? Maybe he could have. But teaming up with a young Kobe Bryant and all that L.A. glitz and glamour sure would make it easier.
Then on the way out the door Shaq for some odd reason felt the need to give the Magic fans, who screamed their lungs out for him, the finger. He said he didn't like being the big fish in the small pond. Apparently we bothered him.
So our rallying cry was "Screw you Shaq." We hoped he would NEVER get a ring. When Michael Jordan came back for a second run with the Bulls, he delayed the inevitable. But alas, it was inevitable. Shaq has four rings now.
Orlando? Still none. Fourteen years later and still none. And now it looks bleak for the future with the Eastern Conference All-Star Team playing just down the Turnpike.
Cleveland, this is what's in store for you. You will now have to watch Public Enemy No. 1 celebrate championships. Meanwhile, your arena will be sparsely populated on most nights.
I can remember Magic tickets being gold one year and the next they couldn't give them away. I once went to the local YMCA and the guy there asked me if I wanted some tickets. I said "sure." So he pulls out a stack of tickets for a Hawks game I could barely get in one hand and says "here ya go." I think I managed to give away about four of them. There were entire sections in the arena that night with less than ten people.
If finding cheap tickets to NBA games is your thing, then you have struck gold here. Of course the games won't be very exciting. The arena will be quiet. The home team will most likely be losing. Oh there will be some excitement when the Heat comes in. When the Lakers came to Orlando it was like a Finals game. It was the only game that year that mattered. Other than that, not much going on.
Get ready for it Cleveland. For a city that has endured the heartbreak you have, this just isn't fair. But it is inevitable.
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