Nick Anderson Fades Into History


Dwight Howard did it. On a pick and roll with Hedo Turkoglu at the free throw line, Howard rolled to the basket and received a feed from Turkoglu for an easy dunk and the 10,651 point of his career.

Dwight Howard, on that basket, became the Magic’s all-time leading scorer, passing a very gracious Nick Anderson. He did in seven seasons what it took Nick Anderson to do. It probably cemented Howard’s place (trade or not) as the best player in team history. There is no doubt Howard holds a very high place in Magic history now, holding many records including most rebounds, free throws and most blocks. Howard’s impact on the team is everywhere in the record books.

Nick Anderson’s impact diminishes with the record gone. As new fans come in and the memory of the 1994-95, mid-90s Finals run and the inaugural teams fade, Anderson will fade with them.

Maybe nostalgia is popping up because Anderson was so loyal. He was heartbroken when the Magic traded him in 1999 to the Kings as part of their rebuilding efforts that year and then frustrated that he could not come back and work for Orlando. You can see his joy in working as a community ambassador and part-time analyst on TV.

It stands in contrast to the situation in which Howard broke the record.

Howard’s trade demand still stands. He seems not long for the team and seems on his way out. He continues to be noncommital about it. While everyone, including Anderson and teammate J.J. Redick, say they want to see Howard score 10,000 more points in a Magic uniform. Everyone seems pretty sure that won’t happen, despite all the hopes and dreams that Howard will stay.

It makes the whole process of “passing the torch” (which might literally happen at a future Magic home game) a little harder to stomach. Howard does not seem long for the team. Everyone wants to analyze every one of his movements to divine his future. The going thought is that he has one foot out the door and his mind is pre-occupied and that he is going through the motions. I do not believe that is the case, but that is the perception.

Anderson symbolized someone who came to Orlando a bright-eyed rookie on an expansion franchise, stayed, remained loyal and just bled Orlando Magic.

His career with the Magic was 10 years of doing whatever the team needed from him.

He averaged 15.4 points per game, shot 45.4 percent from the floor and shot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc. He started off in the league as a Sixth Man and defender. He grew into a starter and strong defender — he recorded 100 steals in every year from 1993-1997. When Shaquille O’Neal arrived, he turned into a floor-spacing 3-point shooter. His 3-point shooting his rookie year was 5.9 percent (1 for 17) and grew to a peak of 41.5 percent in the 1995 season.

When O’Neal left, Anderson became a secondary scoring option. He became the team’s top offensive options some nights in the lockout-shortened 1999 season (his final in Orlando). He even posted a 50-point game the night O’Neal tore down the basket in New Jersey.

Anderson was a do-everything-for-the-team kind of guy. That is probably why he still resonates. And why, after seeing his place in the record book be surpassed, it feels like the Magic have to do something to recognize him and keep him in the forefront of the franchise’s mind for all the success he had with the team and what he did and continues to do for it.

Again, it might be the juxtaposition of Anderson, the player who never wanted to leave, and Howard, the player that seems to want out of Orlando, that has this feeling of emptiness and frustration growing. It is not that Howard does not deserve the record, he certainly does. It is just that Anderson was always kind of our secret.

When people hear Nick Anderson they think of the 1995 Finals (for worse, because that moment did not define his career). They do not think of the Steal against the Bulls. They do not think of his shot in a cathartic moment in 1996 when Shaquille O’Neal made his first trip to Orlando Arena as a member of the Lakers. They do not think he is the team’s all-time leading scorer.

Anderson was Orlando’s in every sense then. He was the local secret. The local favorite. And for that reason he still deserves a place of honor.

The accomplishments and love fans have for Anderson are not things players ever deserve. It is something they earn.I do not want to go so far as to say he should have his jersey retired. That feels like it is a special kind of honor. But the more I think about Anderson’s place in the franchise and its history, and the more I think that he deserves something to remain in the forefront of Magic fans minds — especially those who did not see him play — the more I think retiring his jersey is the right move.

Anderson certainly earned it. Now that he is out of the record book, something else has to show his importance in franchise history.