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Rashard Lewis Has Earned His Money

Hoops4life Analyst IJune 5, 2009

CLEVELAND - MAY 22: Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic pumps his fist between plays against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 22, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

You saw Rashard Lewis's output in Game One—if you can really call it an output.

But its not too hard to remember how clutch he was against Cleveland, hitting huge threes and making the big plays to help Orlando dominate the series.

However, it is easy to forget Rashard Lewis's story. It's easy to forget that he is truly an underdog, and how far he's come.

Lewis decided to bypass college entirely in back in 1998 and instead opted for the NBA draft. The Houston Rockets were rumoured to be interested in taking the hometown hero, but instead chose Micheal Dickerson, Mirsad Turkcan, and Bryce Drew.

Seen any of them playing in All-Star games recently?

Lewis fell into the second round, where he was picked up by the Seattle SuperSonics—and left with a burning need to make those teams that passed on him regret it.

He spent nine years in Seattle, becoming a major piece of the team, and the Robin to Ray Allen's Batman. Using his outstanding shooting combined with height and athleticism, Lewis became a match up problem for many teams. He broke the record for most three-pointers as a Sonic and had three straight seasons of averaging over 20 PPG.

But the Sonics lacked wins. The only season that could really be termed as a success was the '04-05 season. The Sonics surprised many that year with 52 wins and a division title.

It was this year that Rashard earned his first All-Star berth.  He was a key cog in the team's success, though they were still stopped short in the second round by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.

In 2007, it was clear the team was changing. It was nearing confirmation that the team would be relocated to Oklahoma City. The team won the second pick in that year's draft, and it was clear they were going in a new direction.

Ray Allen was traded, and Rashard Lewis quickly decided to walk away into free agency.

If you type the name Rashard Lewis into Google, the first thing it suggests is 'Rashard Lewis: Contract'.

Everyone knows about the huge contract that the Orlando Magic gave to Lewis—a six-year, $110 million deal. And the media had a field day over it. He was immediately labelled as overrated. The Magic were criticised for mortgaging their future and giving far too much money to Lewis.

I never agreed with this analysis. I believe half the reason the deal was talked about so much was that it was the only important free-agent signing of the summer.

That's where Rashard began his journey with Orlando—and it's where he began earning every dollar of that contract.

In his first year, the Magic were never truly considered contenders, though he did finish as the Magic's top scorer in the playoffs.

This season would be a different story.

The Magic came together to be a truly dominant force in the East. Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson were selected as All-Stars, along with Lewis. They lost Nelson to a nasty shoulder injury and narrowly missed out on the second seed in the East, but were still a force to be reckoned with.

They faltered at first, losing their first playoff game at home against the Sixers, but they soon found their way and finished off the Sixers in six.

Rashard had 29 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the elimination game.

The reigning-champion Boston Celtics were the Magic's first challenge.  The Magic were down 3-2 in the series, and completed one of the greatest comebacks in recent NBA history.

The Magic were even able to knock off the Cavaliers, who had been basically pencilled into the NBA finals since Kevin Garnett had gone down with injury.

Lewis hit some unbelievably-clutch shots in the Cleveland series.  Without him they would have been in serious trouble.

I had originally intended to name this article ''Rashard Lewis: Time To Earn His Money,'' and talk about how Lewis's play in these finals would decide whether he really deserved that huge contract or not.

But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked that idea. In my opinion, Rashard Lewis has earned that money, and silenced the critics.

The Magic wouldn't have reached the NBA finals without him. Perhaps they wouldn't have even made the Conference Finals.

This is the greatest season for the Magic since Shaq was hanging with Mickey Mouse—and Lewis has been a huge part of that.

This has nothing to do with money now. This is about the championship, and finally showing those teams what they missed out on.

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