Nick Anderson may be one of the most important players in Orlando Magic history. Nationally he is underrated and not very well known. For me, Anderson is Mr. Magic. He was one of the team’s founding fathers.
Anderson is known for a playoff triumph and failure. He is beloved by many Magic fans as the guy who stole the ball from Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This was in the closing seconds of Game 1 in 1995. The Magic were the higher seed, but this was Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The steal helped the Magic get a lead with 6.2 seconds left. The team won the game and the series.
He is also known by many as the guy who could’ve sealed Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. Anderson had two separate opportunities to push the team’s lead from three to five with under ten seconds remaining.
Sadly, Anderson missed all four free throws. This allowed Kenny Anderson to hit a game-tying three to send the game to overtime. Houston outscored Orlando in overtime and ended up winning the series. The Magic were swept in four games and Anderson never recovered.
Nick Anderson Was More Than Just Missed Free Throws
Even though this may be your first thoughts with Anderson, Magic fans remember much more. He was the team’s first-ever draft pick with the 11th pick in the 1989 NBA draft. As mentioned, he had been the franchise leader in field goals made.
Anderson was the first piece in the young big three Orlando tried to build with Anderson, Shaq, and Penny Hardaway. Sadly, much like what happened in Oklahoma City with Westbrook, Harden, and Durant, the Magic trio never returned to the NBA Finals. They were swept and faded.
The Magic Could Always Count on Nick
Shaquille O’Neal left as soon as he could for greener pastures in Los Angeles. Hardaway was often injured and never realized his potential. Anderson stayed steady for the franchise, but he was never enough. More importantly, Anderson wanted to stay in Orlando. This was important for fans who watched O’Neal and Hardaway enthusiastically walk out the door. He lived up to his potential and lived up to the small amount of hype.
Anderson played for the first ten seasons the Magic ever had. I still remember watching him in his rookie season. He averaged 11.5 points while mostly coming off the bench. In ten seasons, he averaged 15.4 points. He was good and should be considered a great pick at number 11.
Nick Anderson even sacrificed his game for the best interest of the team. He was the team’s leading scorer at 19.9 points per game the year before O’Neal was drafted. He wasn’t the pure shooter compliment, but instead was a slasher and a guard with a good post game. These didn’t fit well with Shaq, so he improved his shooting and took a lesser role. He took a back seat to both O’Neal and Hardaway for wins. When they left, he was still around and did his best for the team. He still works with the team today. He is where he should be as the original Magic player.