Orlando Magic’s Markelle Fultz will once again prove doubters wrong

Orlando Magic point guard Markelle Fultz will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic point guard Markelle Fultz will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Markelle Fultz has had a very up and down journey in his short four-year NBA career.

From being considered the runaway first overall pick, to an undiagnosed and rare injury, to a rebirth with a new team to a devastating injury all over again. Fultz has seemingly seen it all.

Through it all, there were flashes of what made Fultz the top overall pick. Signs that he was still an impact player.

After the Orlando Magic acquired him, he made an immediate impact and was a key part of their return to the playoffs in 2020.

He grew from that and became a key part of the team’s surprising 4-0 start to the 2021 season. The Magic’s season turned south when he tore his ACL just eight games into the season.

Fultz’s career has been about proving his doubters wrong at every turn. And coming back from a torn ACL, Fultz will have to do it all over again.

Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz has faced doubters at seemingly every turn. Coming back from a torn ACL, Fultz will have to prove them all wrong all over again.

It is not yet clear when Fultz will make his comeback. He posted a photo from the AdventHealth Practice Facility court with a devil’s horns teasing his return before joining teammates in Charleston, S.C. for group workouts.

Everyone is anticipating his return and what it could mean for the Magic after he averaged a career-best 12.9 points per game in those opening eight games (14.3 points per game if you take out the game he got injured in).

Still, the doubts and the questions about the former No. 1 overall pick have never really subsided.

He has had many doubters right from the start, as he struggled with a case of undiagnosed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that made it difficult for him to shoot. Many NBA fans mocked him since he could not properly raise his shoulders to shoot.

It was a rare injury for NBA players and one that nobody seemed to track down. Finding out what the injury actually was remained a huge relief and turning point for Fultz.

It was nearly impossible for Fultz to play through it.

Ben Uzoh, former NBA guard for the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors who also suffered the TOS injury. He described the injury as something that can “shut you down mentally.” He noted he believed Fultz had the injury even when he was playing very well in the 2017 Summer League for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Fultz shot better than 40-percent from the 3-point line in college. Scouts looked at Fultz’s shooting as one of his strengths. He could pull up from the 3-point range with ease and drain the shot. But with the injury he simply said himself in an interview, “It’s hard to lift up your arms, even something as changing your shirt becomes extremely tough and painful to do.”

Fultz struggled in his first years in Philadelphia and rarely saw the court. He played in only 33 total games across two seasons. He was hardly the runaway top overall pick.

The harsh Philadelphia fans made life hard for Fultz and all but gave up on him. He was the focus of all their ire.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Fultz then was traded to the Magic and played the following season and played very well. He led the Magic to their second postseason in a row. He looked extremely calm and collected while making plays and passes that young point guards like himself have no business making.

The following season, the COVID-shortened 2021 season, Markelle Fultz had gotten off to a great start. In the first three games, he was averaging 20.7 points per game while shooting 49-percent from the field.

He played well enough in that one year to earn a three-year, $50-million contract. Everyone felt the Magic had a solid option at point guard to build around.

The Orlando Magic were off to a 5-2 start and all things seemed to be going well, until Fultz drove to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers, fell on the floor screaming and holding his knee clearly in a lot of pain. The entire Amway Center went quiet as Fultz was put on a wheelchair and gone for imaging.

Later that night Magic received the worst news possible: Fultz would be out for the season with a torn ACL.

The Magic’s offense went to a halt, as their offensive rating fell from 110 to 105. The Magic struggled mightily and eventually blew up their team and opted for a rebuild as the team sunk deeper down the standings.

With the additions of Cole Anthony in the 2020 NBA Draft, R.J. Hampton on the trade deadline and now Jalen Suggs in the 2021 NBA Draft, many Magic fans have forgotten how impactful the play of Markelle Fultz was.

Offensively, he simply has no real weaknesses. His shooting was developing nicely as he became a solid mid-range and off-the-bounce shooter, even if he continued to struggle to shoot from deep.

This remains the biggest question Fultz faced.

But he can do everything else a point guard asks of him. He can drive to the rim and finish with the best of them, he makes passes that seem like he has eyes on the back of his head and keeps the offense organized.

Last month on a radio podcast with Brandon Kravitz on 96.9 the game, general manager John Hammond stated  the Magic expect Fultz to be ready by “the start of the season, or very shortly after the start.” That is excellent news for the Magic, as they can get their two “young veteran” franchise cornerstones in Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz back.

Fultz has doubters once again questioning whether he will be the same player after the injury. With Fultz shutting all his doubters wrong last time with a much more rare and serious TOS injury, there should be optimism that with an ACL injury, he should be able to do the same.

Next. 3 starting lineup predictions for the Magic. dark

ACL injuries are nowhere near as scary and career-threatening as they were 15 years ago, medical technology has advanced so much, that doctors say the player’s previously injured knee is even stronger than the actual fully healthy knee.