The Founding (Pat Williams)
This Magic Moment starts not with the drafting of Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, it starts with the story of how the Orlando Magic came to even exist.
How did a small orange-growing town and home to the largest tourist destination in the world become a major league sports town and then the epicenter of the NBA for at least a few years in the mid-1990s?
To be sure, Walt Disney World is the reason Orlando started to grow. It is still the largest employer in the area and the driver of its tourism economy. There is no Orlando Magic without Disney’s presence in the area. There is no Orlando as we know it without that.
But the bold vision of putting the Magic in Orlando was still a crazy one.
Today, that seems obvious. But in some ways, it was the legitimacy the Magic and major sports gave Orlando that allowed the city to grow. It is hard to imagine Orlando without its Magic at this point (which heads toward the other great what if in the city’s history when the Magic nearly left town in 2002).
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The beginning of This Magic Moment begins this explanation. It describes what Orlando was like before Hewitt and Williams hatched their idea to bring professional basketball. It talks about the early years of the franchise.
But it is short on details in this amazing longshot story and the impact it truly had on Central Florida.
Inside the Magic also touched some on the founding of the franchise, especially around the time both Williams and Hewitt went into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. Both men tell some incredible stories about the team’s founding.
Williams’ career in the NBA, from his time with the 76ers and beyond, is a story worth telling itself. The Magic are very much his brainchild.
Most Magic fans probably do not know the full story or even where Orlando was as a city when the team arrived.
This story is one that deserves to be told in full — even if it only gets an hour. There is already a good guideline in Williams’ book Making Magic.
The story of the Orlando Magic is truly a story of belief. Belief in a market ready to mature and hit the big time. A city hungry to have something of its own. And the pure gumption, grit and salesmanship of one of the NBA’s greatest figures.