5 Orlando Magic stories that deserve its own documentary

Darrell Armstrong and Doc Rivers headlines the Orlando Magic's Heart & Hustle team, a group that deserves its story told. (Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport)
Darrell Armstrong and Doc Rivers headlines the Orlando Magic's Heart & Hustle team, a group that deserves its story told. (Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport) /
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Darrell Armstrong, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers
Orlando Magic guard Darrell Armstrong (#10) drives past Portland Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudmire (#3) during the second period of the game at the Arena in Orlando, FL, 17 November, 1999. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Tony RANZE (Photo by TONY RANZE / AFP) (Photo by TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images) /

Heart & Hustle

Darrell Armstrong was never supposed to make the NBA. He was late to basketball and in a corner of the world where there was a little pathway to the NBA. He went to small Fayetteville State where coaches took an interest in him and he made his mark with his hustle and energy.

Darrell Armstrong kicked it in several leagues like the CBA and in Greece just hoping to get some notice. But it was always a long shot.  The NBA was not likely looking for a 6-foot-1 guard.

He made his mark though in a CBA game that was a short drive for John Gabriel to see. His trademark energy and athleticism stood out. The Orlando Magic took a chance on him.

Armstrong did not play much in his first two seasons in the league. But coaches loved his defensive energy. It was hard not to keep him on the roster.

He finally broke through in 1997, helping corral Tim Hardaway and giving Anfernee Hardaway all the window he needed for the Magic to have a chance at the upset.

Armstrong remained firmly entrenched in the Magic’s rotation until he was allowed to walk in free agency in 2003. He would win the Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player Awards in 1999.

Teammates loved him, from when he first joined the team with Shaquille O’Neal until he left with Tracy McGrady there.

But undoubtedly the team he is most associated with and his crowning achievement was the 2000 season. The Heart and Hustle year.

That season — a 41-41 team that fell just a game short of making the Playoffs — is still one of the most beloved teams of all time. But it was never supposed to happen that way.

The Magic deconstructed the final remnants of their 1995 Finals team, trading away Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Anfernee Hardaway for players on expiring contracts. The plan was to position themselves for free agency.

Most of the preseason predictions had the Magic finishing in dead last, not even winning 20 games. Instead, the rag-tag bunch defied all expectations throughout the year.

The real story though is the characters and players who made it up.

There was Armstrong, the sparkplug that defined the team with his energy. He was the veteran at this point, but this season was truly his breakout year.

There was Bo Outlaw, who did not pick up basketball until his junior year of high school and was a swimmer before a basketball player. He too was a castoff who had to fight his way into the league in the CBA. But he too became a foundation for the Magic and a fan favorite.

There was Doc Rivers, the first-year head coach who was the master motivator. He won Coach of the Year that season and established his bona fides in the league.

There was Ben Wallace beginning his star turn and providing a defensive backstop for this team. And veterans like Ron Mercer and Chris Gatling still proving their way. Or rookie Corey Maggette starting to make a name for himself in the league.

This team was full of characters. And even though the year ended in disappointment, it was one for the ages.