Arguably the two best players in Orlando Magic history are Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.
Shaq is the most talented, while Howard is the longest-tenured superstar. They both led the Magic to their highest peaks as a franchise — O’Neal leading the Magic to the 1995 Finals and culture phenomena status and Howard earning the franchise’s lone Finals win with a trip in 2009.
They are both superhuman figures in Magic history — worthy of not just induction into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame but the Basketball Hall of Fame and probably a bit more within the franchise’s lore.
Both are nicknamed Superman for a number of reasons. But the one thing both are NOT known for is their shooting strokes. These two players dominated the paint but faced criticism throughout their careers for their struggles at the foul line and eventually their inability to stretch outside of the paint. Howard especially got dinged for never developing even a semblance of a jumper.
During the last month or so, we have been highlighting the greatest shooters as well as best shooting performances in Magic history.
Orlando Magic Daily’s shooting month project leaves out the two titans of the team’s history since both Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal were not noted shooters. So here is their chance to take their shot.
So of course, two players who combined for 23 total three-point makes in their career would not get much shine right?
This is not a month to celebrate the post giants that have defined the Magic’s history. This is the one piece of Magic history that avoids talking about these literal giants in team history.
Well yeah, of course. You would be right . . . up until now.
We figured it would be too fun to pass up a look back at their shooting woes.
Because when O’Neal and Howard made a three, it was a moment to celebrate.
Shaq’s lonely three
Shaquille O’Neal only made one three-point shot in his career. It came on February 16, 1998 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
O’Neal received an inbounds pass and threw up a three-point attempt as time was expiring in the first quarter from near midcourt. Of course that is the way O’Neal would make his only three in a Magic uniform or his career. It was the most showman way to do it.
For his career, he holds a 4.5-percent shooting mark from long distance on 22 shots.
Shot location began being tracked during the 1997 season and through that, we know that five of those shots were heaves (shots beyond half court).
By far the majority of his 3-point attempts came while he was with the Orlando Magic — 11 of his 22 came with Orlando and nine more when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers.
O’Neal had a six-year span during his career from the 2003 season through the 2008 season in which he did not attempt a shot from beyond the arc.
In 15 All-Star appearances (playing in 12 games), O’Neal attempted three long-range shots. Even in the relaxed showcase game where centers get to pretend to be guards, O’Neal was not much for even trying to shoot.
In fact, one of those All-Star 3-pointers was during the 1995 NBA All-Star Game that resulted in an airball.
It should also be noted that after 17 years in the postseason and totaling 45 playoff series, O’Neal never even attempted a three.
And for what it is worth, he also didn’t attempt a three in his three years at LSU.
So yes, when that one went in for his career, it was a moment to celebrate.
Dwight Howard thought about it at least
Dwight Howard’s early days overlapped with Shaquille O’Neal’s final six seasons. But Howard played through the “three-point boom” if you will, unlike O’Neal. Centers in Howard’s era were beginning to step out and shoot jumpers more, even if they were not full-fledged stretch-5s yet.
O’Neal never would have been expected to develop a 3-point shot. Howard got some calls to become more of a jump shooter.
And in the past few seasons, Howard has stepped outside the paint and shoot jumpers more than he ever has. The league has evolved and has largely left Howard behind it.
In his career, Howard has shot 103 three-pointers and made 22 of them (21.4 percent). In his last 2 seasons, he has made 13 threes off of 35 attempts.
During his time with the Magic, Howard shot 3 percent from beyond the arc, only making 1 three-pointer off of 33 attempts. Those are not typos. But at least he occasionally took a few.
In the 2020 season, he actually shot better from the three-point line (60 percent, 3 for 5) than he did from the free throw line (51.4 percent, 110 of 214). And in his time with the Lakers, he has made 12 of 26 3-pointers.
Maybe he should be shooting it a bit more? Probably not.
One of the early attractions for Howard coming out of high school was his potential to play more like a power forward and shoot off the dribble. He and the Magic obviously had different ideas as they turned him into a more traditional center to hold up the franchise.
Still, the hint of his shooting always remained, even if it was a slow motion, jilted jumper he would take from 12 feet to hit off the backboard.
Howard was a much more willing heaver than O’Neal. He has accounted for 27 heaves so far during his career. Sadly he has made none.
During eight All-Star games, he is 2 for 13 (15.4 percent) from three-point range.
In 12 years and 24 series worth of postseason experience, Howard had made one three-pointer. That three came at the very end of Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals en route to his first NBA title.
Neither Howard nor O’Neal will go down as the best shooters in league or Magic history. But we still salute the attempt and give them credit for the rare makes they had.