NBA Championships: 0
Last NBA Championship: N/A
Claim to Fame: The Magic pulled off an improbable second-round series win over Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1995.
Claim to Shame: The Magic were easily pushed aside and swept by the Houston Rockets in the 1994 NBA Finals.
The Orlando Magic entered the league in 1989, but really shot to prominence by the start of the 1992 season. That summer, the team won the draft lottery and drafted LSU center Shaquille O’Neal, setting their path to dominance.
The good times kept rolling, as the Magic won the draft lottery the following year. They used the pick on Chris Webber, but moved him to Golden State for the fourth pick in that draft, Anfernee Hardaway.
Two seasons later, the franchise was in the NBA Finals – on the strength of bouncing Michael Jordan and the Bulls along the way. Orlando had the Rockets on the ropes in Game 1 and were poised to win, but four consecutive missed free throws by Nick Anderson allowed Houston a chance to come back, eventually winning in overtime. The Magic never recovered, and were swept.
That version of the Magic disappeared in 1996, when O’Neal bolted to the Lakers as a free agent.
A failed pairing of Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill doomed the team in the early 2000s, and the Magic didn’t truly find their footing until 2004 when they drafted Dwight Howard. The high school phenom led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2010, but they were no match for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Since then, it’s been failure after failure for the franchise. Despite being in the lottery since the summer of 2013, the Magic have not improved, and worse, have not had a high draft pick emerge as a cornerstone to build on. Unless you’re counting Victor Oladipo, whom they traded to OKC and is now an All-NBA player with the Pacers.
The Magic finally broke out of the doldrums last season, by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12 and stealing Game 1 of their first round series on a DJ Augustin buzzer beater against the eventual champion Raptors.
Their entire core is back, including Nikola Vucevic who re-signed after an All-Star campaign, and they will hope to take the next step on jumps from Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz and Aaron Gordon.