How to learn more about the 1995 Orlando Magic featured in The Last Dance

Anfernee Hardaway an the Orlando Magic shocked the basketball world in 1995. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Anfernee Hardaway an the Orlando Magic shocked the basketball world in 1995. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic got their turn in the spotlight of The Last Dance. But their time was short and did not reach the impact they truly had. Time to learn.

Midway through Episode 8 of The Last Dance, the only team that beat Michael Jordan for the last four hours of the documentary appeared. For the first time in several weeks, Jordan lost on a basketball court and his dominance and victory was not assured.

The Orlando Magic humbled Jordan in 1995. They knocked off the Chicago Bulls in six games, stunning many and forcing Jordan to realize he was not immortal. His body and his focus had changed after his baseball sabbatical.

The 1995 Playoffs represented a personal failure. It was Nick Anderson who stole the ball and “took his rock” on national television in the Game 1 defeat. It was the Magic finding the will to win and forcing a weaker opponent to submit to their will.

And, poof, just like that the segment was over. They moved on to Space Jam to talk about how Jordan rededicated himself to the gym and into the 1996 season. The revenge rematch in the Eastern Conference Finals barely got any screen time or pay off.

For Jordan and the Bulls, the sleight the Magic gave in winning the series and lifting Horace Grant on their shoulders was the important part. The seeds of inspiration that left Jordan needing to drive and do more was the part of the story that mattered, not overcoming the rival itself.

This has been sort of a theme of The Last Dance. Outside of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons, there was really no one who could rise to the challenge. Just teams that Jordan had to create some intrigue to defeat. He and the documentary have disposed of those teams quickly.

Jordan’s rise to greatness and victory seemed always predetermined. The opponent did not matter.

Of course, the 1995 Magic were different. They got one over on Jordan and beat him.

He needed to change and do something to beat them. The Bulls needed to change and do something to beat them — the documentary does not make it clear, but the duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Horace Grant is why they acquired Dennis Rodman.

The Magic were a real threat to those Bulls teams if and when Jordan got his legs back. Probably a unique threat to them considering the team’s age.

The 1995 Magic have been in our focus for the last few weeks for a number of reasons.

It was not merely the anticipation for their appearance in The Last Dance. This is the 25th anniversary of that team.

And with the league on hiatus, FOX Sports Florida treated us to several classic Orlando Magic games from the time — all four wins from the series with the Chicago Bulls as well as all four wins from the Magic’s Eastern Conference Finals victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Quite possibly for many Magic fans, this was the first time they had the chance to watch a game in its entirety and see this team in action in all of its glory.

Even someone who watched those series live — for me, I was six years old at the time — watching the games again was thrilling even comparing them to more modern sensibilities.

FOX Sports Florida has moved past the 1995 team. The Last Dance has moved past the 1995 team. It is not clear when the 1995 Magic might be someplace easily accessible.

With the team still fresh in our minds, I thought it might be useful to list out where and how you can watch this important team to Magic history and this still incredibly popular team in league history.

This Magic Moment

The first place to start, and probably the most easily digestible place to get a sense of Orlando Magic history is the 30 for 30 documentary This Magic Moment.

A lot of Magic fans were a bit upset with The Last Dance for skipping over the 1995 Playoffs and even the return battle in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic represented the only team to defeat Jordan in a playoff series and really stand a winning challenge to him for the better part of eight years.

There is a lot to think about on what would have happened if the Magic stayed together for the 1997 season. That will be left for another day.

This Magic Moment though becomes almost essential viewing to understand that 1995 team and the early history of the Orlando Magic — for a closer look at the founding check out Pat Williams’ book Making MagicIt gives the Magic version of the Jordan story, in some respect, and dives deep into the promise and cultural phenomenon that was the Magic.

Michael Jordan might have been an international superstar, but Shaquille O’Neal was not that far behind him. And Anfernee Hardaway was right there with him.

This Magic Moment is really a story about the folly of youth and the naivete of inexperience. It is a lesson we all could use sometimes.

It is a thrilling ride and a reminder of how the Magic really captured something magical that they could not hold onto.

First-Person Retrospectives

There are several other very good retrospectives on the 1995 Orlando Magic beyond the documentary.

Everyone involved with that team seems to recognize the unique conditions that created that team and how special it was. There is a ton of regret in how players talk about that team.

Nick Anderson has often said he feels like he would have a few rings if Shaquille O’Neal had not left. He is often quoted as saying his father told him O’Neal took his championships with him to Los Angeles.

Anderson even went on Scott Anez’s radio show on ESPN Orlando on Monday and joked he’d be able to fill his entire hand with rings if O’Neal had stayed.

That is just how good O’Neal was.

O’Neal said when he returned for his Orlando Magic Hall of Fame induction that he regretted leaving Orlando. He said it again during This Magic Moment and seems to have some regret over leaving Orlando. Life is pretty good in the small market of Orlando — O’Neal has maintained a home here.

That is possibly some revisionist history. But there is a pullback to this team and that time. And that is seen in several retrospectives.

FOX Sports Florida did a look back at the entirety of the team’s history last year as part of the team’s 30th anniversary. A clip from that can be seen above.

The better retrospective came from Inside the NBA.

During All-Star Weekend in Orlando in 2012, the Inside the NBA crew had Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee Hardaway and Dennis Scott sit down in a local barbershop to reminisce about the team.

Even Nick Anderson was a bit more jovial about that run.

Yes, the 1995 season did not end the way the Magic wanted it to. The team got swept out of the Finals and famously Anderson missed four free throws at the end of Game 1.

That loss — it ended in overtime after Kenny Smith hit a game-tying three to send it to overtime and Hakeem Olajuwon won the game with a tip-in with less than a second less — seemed to break the young team’s aura of invincibility. Their youth finally caught up to them.

For Anderson, the moment seemed to crush some of his confidence. He was not the same player after building a really strong beginning to his career as both a primary option for the Magic and the ultimate role player.

When TNT broadcasted the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009, Smith and Anderson went down to the Amway Arena floor and relived that moment in jest.

Orlando Magic Video Vault

The next best place to go to get a sense of the 1995 team is a resource that I have tried to cultivate here at Orlando Magic Daily.

The 1995 Magic are a very popular team and they were popular internationally too. So like a lot of games from that era, full game shave found their way online, including full games from the playoff run.

The Orlando Magic Video Vault is my attempt to collect all the full games and memorable moments posted on YouTube in one place so you can quickly find games and Magic moments without having to mine through YouTube.

Included in the games I have found are 13 games from the 1994-95 season, the entire Magic-Bulls series and most of the Magic-Pacers series and the entire 1995 NBA Finals.

While hearing players talk about that season and that playoff run is great, nothing beats watching the games in their entirety and getting a real feel for that team and how they played.

This resource as much as any other should give any Magic fan a full picture of this team and the chance to watch some of their best moments in real-time.

Next. Shaq became Shaq in 1995 Playoff run. dark

Hopefully, these resources can help fill in the gaps left open from The Last Dance and give Magic fans a chance to really dive in deep to the 1995 team.