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How was the Orlando Magic team formed? Who were the first players?
In September 1985, Orlando businessman Jim L. Hewitt approached Philadelphia 76ers general manager Pat Williams as they met in Texas on his idea of bringing an NBA team to Orlando. Intrigued by the project, Williams signed on as the front man of the investment group one year later. On June 19, 1986, the two held a news conference to announce their intention of seeking an NBA franchise.
Given that Orlando was a small town lacking a major airport and a suitable arena, many though that it wasn’t suitable for an NBA franchise. Hewitt brought investors such as real estate developer William DuPont, Orlando Renegades owner Don Disney, and Southern Fruit Citrus owners Jim and Steve Caruso, and talked the city into funding an arena. Meanwhile, Williams gave presentations to and the owners of the other teams of the league that the town was viable.
Nearly simultaneously, Hewitt and Williams decided to hold a contest in the Orlando newspaper to get names for their new franchise. On July 27, 1986, it was announced that the committee chose the Magic to be the new name of the Orlando franchise in the NBA. The name “Magic” alludes to the city’s biggest tourist attraction and economic engine Disney World along with its Magic Kingdom.
The Magic were one of the four new expansion franchises awarded by the NBA in 1987 along with the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. Initially, the NBA was planning to expand by three teams, with one franchise going to Florida; however, when both Miami and Orlando ownership groups made successful pitches, the expansion committee decided to expand by four teams, allowing both to have a franchise.
The Magic became the first ever major-league professional sports franchise in the Orlando area, following an expansion fee of reportedly $32.5 million.
The Magic hired Matt Guokas as the team’s first coach, who helped the Magic select 12 players in the NBA Expansion Draft on June 15, 1989. On June 27, 1989, the Magic chose Nick Anderson with the 11th pick in the first round, who became the first draft pick of the franchise.
1989–92: Early years
The very first game played was an exhibition game on October 13, 1989 against the then reigning champions Detroit Pistons, which the Magic won. The atmosphere of the game and the people spectating was quoted as being “like Game 7 of the NBA Finals”.
On November 4, 1989, the Magic played their first regular season game at the Orlando Arena (O-Rena) against the visiting NJ Nets, who won 111–106 in a hard-fought game. The inaugural team compiled a record of 18–64 with players including, , , , , and .
In the, the Orlando Magic selected with the fourth overall pick.
On December 30, 1990, Scott Skiles racked up 30 assists in the 155–116 victory over the Denver Nuggets, breaking Kevin Porter’s NBA single-game assists record (29).
Skiles was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player at the end of the season, as the Magic had the NBA’s most improved record that season. Rookie shooting guard Dennis Scott set a team mark with 125 three-point field goals for the season, the best long-distance production by a rookie in NBA history. He was also named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Despite a 31–51 record, there were 40 sellouts out of 41 home games.
On September 19, 1991, the DeVos family purchased the franchise for $85 million and the family head Richard Devos became the owner of the franchise.
The 1991-92 season was disappointing for the Magic as various players missed games with injuries. Dennis Scott missed 64 games, Nick Anderson missed 22 games, and Stanley Roberts, Jerry Reynolds, Brian Williams, Sam Vincent and Otis Smith all missed at least 27 games each. With a shortage of healthy players the team struggled through a 17-game losing streak and finished with a 21–61 record. The Magic still managed to have all 41 home games sold out.
The Magic won the lottery in 1992 to get the first pick in the NBA Draft that year, and selected Shaquille O’Neal from LSU. This started an era of success for the Magic.