The Orlando Magic: The Teams That Might Have Been
To some, it was an amazing slam dunk; the top play on a Christmas day filled with many to choose from.
To others, it should have been called a charge.
But to fans in Orlando, it was just another case of the ones that got away.
Trevor Ariza towered over Grant Hill, seemingly using one of those tiny halftime show trampolines, and provided the firmly-planted Hill with a view that could have made one of Ariza's ex-girlfriends jealous.
It certainly had that affect on the ever-jilted Magic fans who have spent many seasons watching their former players excel in new cities. If you're not a Central Floridian, just think of the way Britney Spears must feel every time she sees Justin Timberlake making entertainment headlines for the right reasons.
That's us, but with underwear.
Every sports team in every city has a list of players who have left, either from free agency or trade, and found success in other cities. Boston has Babe Ruth. Milwaukee has Abdul-Jabar. And if it wasn't for Peyton Manning, Baltimore residents would still be dreaming about what might have been with John Elway.
But the Orlando Magic, a young franchise founded only 18 years ago in 1989, just might have the best pound-for-pound list of former players out there, at least among NBA teams. If an All-Star team of Magic defectors was put together, I'd love to coach them.
My starters would be lethal. A perfect mix of scoring, defense, and basketball IQ. These guys currently combine to own six championship rings.
PG: Chauncey Billups (traded to Orlando in February of 2000)
SG: Tracy McGrady (2000 - 2004)
SF: Grant Hill (2000 - 2007)
PF: Ben Wallace (1999 - 2000)
C: Shaquille O'Neal (1992 - 1996)
My bench wouldn't be so bad, either. Mike Miller, Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Horace Grant, Drew Gooden, and of course, Trevor Ariza, who needed only a couple of weeks to crack the starting lineup this year in L.A.—something he wasn't able to do in Orlando.
But the Magic shouldn't only be known as a place for young stars to escape from. They should also be renowned as a warm, comfortable city where superstar coaches and players come to retire. Imagine Julius Erving in the front office with Chuck Daly holding the clipboard while Dominique Wilkins, Shawn Kemp, and Patrick Ewing grace the court in their prime.
Now imagine it with each player wearing a fat suit with a locker full of Just For Men hair dye. That was a lot more like it.
We get the players who are past their expiration dates and we lose the players who are just about to explode. The Shaq situation was the certainly the worst, but the McGrady debacle, mixed in with Grant Hill's four ankle surgeries, is a close second. Forgive Orlando fans for not giving their heart and soul to Dwight Howard, who is teetering on the edge of basketball perfection. For as attractive as he is, there are a long line of bitter divorces trying to remind us that its better not to fall in love in the first place.
But as the holiday season comes to a close and the new year awaits, I offer a wish for the only professional franchise in my city. I wish for them to find some toughness on defense. Some rebouding help for Howard. Some consistent point guard play. A slasher who can get to the basket and the free throw line, and a little higher rate of return on the Rashard Lewis investment.
I think this team has some promise, and the next few years should showcase a squad that's worth the price of admission. But until then, Magic fans, I'd stay away from watching any more Suns, Lakers, or Pistons games.
Spend some time with your kids instead. Just be sure to buckle them up—and don't forget the underwear.
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