25 years of Magic: Most memorable openers

BY foxsports • October 27, 2013

The Orlando Magic have never played a season opener that required four overtimes, was delayed by the activation of an indoor sprinkler system, or featured a pregame banner-raising ceremony followed by 48 minutes of uninspired basketball.

But there is something special about opening night. And during the past quarter-century, the Magic have provided their fans with some moments to remember. More often than not, it was the sense of the unexpected which caused certain openers to stand apart from the rest.

So before anyone gets the idea of serenading rookie Victor Oladipo with Jim Nabors' recording of "Back Home Again in Indiana" on Tuesday night, here are the 10 most memorable openers in Magic history:


Hawks 105, Magic 99

Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings throughout the Orlando area made getting to the arena dangerous for Chuck Daly's debut as Magic coach.

When the game began, the Hawks raced to a double-digit lead and then held on down the stretch. Penny Hardaway had 31 points despite tendinitis in his right knee but missed four layups in the fourth quarter. The relationship between Daly and Hardaway would prove to be every bit as stormy as the one Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard had a decade later.


Magic 93, Knicks 85

There weren't many positive vibrations when these two teams tipped off. For starters, the entire season was on the verge of being lost until a resolution was reached to end an acrimonious lockout. And the Knicks came to town with a lineup which included Latrell Sprewell, who had become Public Enemy No. 1 with Golden State for attempting to choke Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo.

With the help of 15 points and eight assists off the bench from Darrell Armstrong, the Magic were able to prevail.


Bullets 96, Magic 92

The first game of the post-Shaq era was a sign of things to come. Rod Strickland, who would become part of the Magic's 61-loss season several years later, showed an ability to get to the basket without any repercussions.

This turned out to be the only game Felton Spencer started -- or played, for that matter -- at center for the Magic, who acquired Rony Seikaly as they departed for a trip to Japan. It was also Washington's last opener as the Bullets; they officially became the Wizards the following summer.


Magic 85, Knicks 83 (OT)

It wasn't pretty, but it was a victory. Little did anyone know at the time what a rare treat that would be. Over the next 19 games, Tracy McGrady would threaten to retire, Doc Rivers would get fired, and the Magic would become a national punchline.

Do the names Britton Johnsen, Gordan Giricek, Donnell Harvey and Shammond Williams ring a bell? The four of them were a collective 7 of 25, and the rest of the Magic didn't shoot much better. Except for Keith Van Horn (29 points), the Knicks were just as bad.


Magic 102, Bucks 83

Howard was at his shot-blocking best against the overmatched Bucks with seven rejections. The former No. 1 pick pick was starting his fourth year in the league and was coming off his first playoff appearance with the Magic, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Pistons.

Van Gundy had just gotten back into coaching following an early-season exit from Miami and after the Magic were spurned by Florida's Billy Donovan. All was fine and dandy between the two of them. How that would change by 2012.


Magic 120, 76ers 106

Four months and change removed from losing in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, the Magic came out firing. By halftime, they had already racked up 70 points -- even without Rashard Lewis, who was suspended for the first 10 games of the season after failing a drug test.

They finished 16 of 29 from 3-point range in the Magic regular-season debut of Vince Carter, who was acquired from the New Jersey Nets over the summer with the hopes of getting him to the Finals for the first time.


Nets 111, Magic 106

If you can still picture Dave Corzine jumping center against Joe Barry Carroll for the first game in franchise history, take a bow. Take several bows, for that matter.

Corzine, Terry Catledge, Jerry Reynolds, Reggie Theus and Sam Vincent composed the starting lineup that Matt Guokas put on the floor.

Despite shooting a meager 36.4 percent from the floor and attempting only five 3-point field goals (making one, by Theus), the Magic still cracked triple digits. Yes, it was a much different game during the '80s.


Thunder 97, Magic 89

The Magic have seldom begun a season on the road. With any luck, they will never again begin a season on the road on Christmas Day. When the league-wide lockout was settled earlier that month, the schedule-makers decided to open things with an assortment of nationally-televised games.

As you might imagine, Van Gundy was less than thrilled but begrudgingly accepted their turn in the spotlight. Aside from Ryan Anderson (25 points), his players also seemed as if they would rather be unwrapping presents.


Magic 116, Heat 96

Shaquille O'Neal was beginning to catch some flak nationally for dabbling in rap music and appearing in movies and commercials before so much as appearing in his first playoff game.

He silenced those critics by dunking on an assortment of Heat centers to the tune of 42 points. The Magic had a record of 0-7 at the late, unlamented Miami Arena before O'Neal and his teammates sent much of the sellout crowd home early. This served as the springboard to a 50-win season with O'Neal, Hardaway and Dennis Scott leading the way.


Magic 110, Heat 100

To the surprise of no one, all of the attention going into the game was the NBA regular-season debut of O'Neal. But this came as a surprise: Nick Anderson pouring in a career-high 42 points.

O'Neal had 12 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots in 32 minutes but also turned the ball over eight times and fouled out. More than five months later, Anderson topped that with a 50-point game at New Jersey that was overshadowed by O'Neal's tearing down of a backboard which almost fell right on top of Dwayne Schintzius.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.


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