Filling out the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame — 2022 Edition

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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard was a force of nature for the Orlando Magic and dominated nearly a decade in the league. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Filling out the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame

Should be in . . . but

Not every player or person leaves the franchise on good terms. That is just reality and the Orlando Magic have had a lot of messy breakups — Anfernee Hardaway said when he was brought back to celebrate the team’s 25th anniversary that he was hesitant to return because he thought fans might boo him as they did when he first left.

The Magic have had to do some work to repair some relationships with legendary players. And it is impossible to tell the franchise’s story without the players on this slide. Yet, there are some current circumstances that might delay their rightful place.

Dwight Howard (2005-12)

Look, Dwight Howard will be in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. Failing to put him in there would mean the whole project is meaningless. He is one of the most important and impactful players in franchise history and a member of its Mt. Rushmore having led the team to the Finals in 2009 and been the anchor to its most sustained run of success.

The question with Howard’s admission is timing and acceptance. How long after he retires does he go in? The Magic may not want to wait until the Hall of Fame sort of forces their hands like it did with Tracy McGrady (he went into the Magic Hall of Fame the same year). Then again, there are probably still some hard feelings about how he departed.

And that does not even get into the fans. While in the last decade attitudes have softened, there are still fans who react negatively to anything involving Howard. And the last ting anybody would want is for Howard to be booed in his return to his basketball home.

Scott Skiles (1990-94 player, 2016 coach)

As a player, Scott Skiles was one of the most popular players in team history. He was tough and hard-nosed, unafraid to back down from anyone (including his own teammate in Shaquille O’Neal) and kept everything serious. He set the league record with 30 assists, an accomplishment Skiles is still not thrilled about.

As a coach, he brought a purpose and seriousness a young team needed and helped them to a mini-breakthrough. . . before everything fell apart. That was partly his own doing as he clashed with management and essentially gave up on the young team and the direction the franchise wanted to go.

Still, Skiles deserves a spot in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. The challenge would be convincing him to return to Orlando to receive the honor. And that is an honor he probably ultimately does not care too much about.

Stan Van Gundy (2008-12)

The Orlando Magic fell into their greatest coach in franchise history by mistake. They had originally hired Billy Donovan only for the former Florida coach to go back on his deal. Stan Van Gundy was in Sacramento preparing to take the job with the Sacramento Kings when the Orlando Magic faxed him their contract offer at a local Kinkos. The rest is history.

Van Gundy as the Magic’s head coach completely revolutionized the league. He leveraged and maximized Dwight Howard’s skills to their fullest extent and pushed the league into a completely new era. Van Gundy was a revolutionary coach and pushed the Magic to heights they have really not experienced.

The breakup with the coach was just as bad as the breakup with his defining star. Van Gundy still lives in the Orlando area though. And if the bridges have been mended, Van Gundy deserves a place in the team’s Hall of Fame.

Alex Martins (1990-98, 2006-Present)

Orlando Magic fans probably hate the idea of Alex Martins going into the team’s Hall of Fame. His relationship with fans has not always been seen as a strong one. His taking over the team and mismanaging the first rebuild after Dwight Howard is considered a disaster and laid squarely on his shoulders. Perhaps he has learned his lesson with how he has taken a back seat to Jeff Weltman.

But there is still no denying his impact. And if ownership wants to be self-congratulatory, Martins is deserving a spot. Timing would be everything.

Martins has been with the team almost uninterrupted since the beginning. He worked in public relations during the early years and Shaquille O’Neal’s time before leaving and returning to work in business. As controversial as he was in this process, he was instrumental in getting the Amway Center built and getting that and the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts and Citrus Bowl renovation passed.

He is also currently a member of the board of trustees for UCF and was on the board for One Pulse Foundation in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

Fans may not be in love with Martins, but he is deserving of recognition.

I would add that former executive Bob Vander Weide probably also deserves this spot in the Hall of Fame as the representation of ownership in Orlando for much of the 1990s and 2000s. But that just will not happen while the DeVos family is in charge and a new ownership group probably would not give that honor to him.

Nikola Vucevic (2013-21)

Nikola Vucevic will be in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. Becoming an All-Star will almost be an automatic induction into the Hall of Fame. It is just truly a rare thing. And Vucevic was a class act through a lot of bad years before finding his breakthrough, making the All-Star team and getting the team back to the playoffs.

The only thing missing from Vucevic’s resume is winning. The Magic only snuck into the playoffs with Vucevic as the main star. And Orlando ultimately decided that the team was not going very far if he was its best player, selling him at his peak value.

Evan Fournier (2015-21)

Evan Fournier was an often underappreciated player with the Orlando Magic who still performed very well. He was a solid player who just was asked to do more than he was capable of performing. Like Nikola Vucevic, he was on the team during its lowest point where there was not much hope for the future.

Fournier should get the longevity bump. He was with the team for a long time and played admirably and well. He deserves at least a look in a down year for candidates.