Dennis Scott was part of the Orlando Magic’s foundation, 3-point revolution

Dennis Scott took his rightful place in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame as one of the pillars of the modern NBA and the founding fathers of the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Scott took his rightful place in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame as one of the pillars of the modern NBA and the founding fathers of the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The idea of who Dennis Scott was as a basketball took a lot of faith. At least for 1990.

Scott was a 3-point shooter at a time when the league still scoffed at the idea of that thin line paint 23 feet, 9 inches from the basket. The league just did not know how to use that weapon. Certainly not in the space-bending ways it does today.

This was a specialty. And it took coaches understanding the power he could bring and trusting him to be that weapon to buy into the idea that Scott was selling.

But Scott was a truly unique weapon in the growing NBA. He was someone who saw the future and quickly became it — joking that he wished his mother had him a few years later so he could take advantage of the world he helped usher into existence.

Scott came at the perfect time though. He joined a young franchise when they wanted someone fun and warm to embrace. He was the right role player for a team on the cusp of a championship.

Scott was great in his own right and he was among the pillars of the young Magic franchise, spending seven years in Orlando from the team’s ascent to its place at the top and the fall that came after losing that superstar player. Scott defined the team as much as anything else — just as he defined the future the league would become.

Dennis Scott took his long-deserved place in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame as he helped not only usher a new era of basketball but helped build the early foundations of the Orlando Magic’s franchise.

Thursday, Scott took his rightful place in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. As the team has continued to add to its Hall of Fame, founded as part of its 25th anniversary season nine years ago, it has put in place one of the most important players of its early years.

And perhaps quietly one of the most important players in NBA history.

"“It’s an unbelievable honor,” Scott said Thursday after his induction into the Hall of Fame. “Just the fact that you feel appreciated for the work that you’ve done and being here for seven years and all the relationships. Just being who I was. . . . If you’ve been around and watched what this franchise has been through, you remember the glory days and the struggles that we had at times. I think that’s why we use the word unconditional love and being part of this family forever.”"

Nobody could have figured that when the Magic took Maryland-native out of Georgia Tech with the fourth pick in the 1990 NBA Draft.

When Scott arrived, the Magic were fresh off their expansion season and still seeking to build their talent base and its identity. This was still a city completely in love with the idea of being a pro sports city.

He was truly one of the pillars that made NBA basketball attractive to a small and growing town that was more of a college football town when its first professional team moved in.

He was as young and as brash as this city wanted to be in those early years. His style of play was something completely different than anything else anybody was doing. Nobody was shooting threes at the volume he was — he entered the league taking 4.1 3-point attempts per game. His 125 3-pointers were fourth in the league as a rookie, his 334 attempts per game were third-most (and Scott Skiles’ 40.8-percent shooting was fifth in the league).

"“There is no doubt that he has played a role in growing basketball in Central Florida,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said after Dennis Scott’s induction Thursday. “I think this city, this community couldn’t imagine NBA basketball not being here anymore. It started with him and many of his teammates at this time. He played such a huge role because he was such an exciting player. He was hooting the 3-pointer before it was popular. He was really one of the 3-point pioneers. That was exciting for our fans. He really helped put a stake in the ground in Central Florida as far as professional basketball.”"

For Scott to find success took a coaching staff and a front office that believed his skill was going to be vital to the team’s development.

At every turn, someone believed in Scott and let him be the gregarious and light-hearted person — he and Nick Anderson were fast friends who became known as “The Knuckleheads” as a sign of the team’s youth — that everyone in Orlando grew to adore and that the entire basketball world still seems to love.

That gave him the green light to let it fly from deep. That is what turned him into “3-D” — a moniker coined at least as the story goes by Magic public address announcer Paul Porter during a game during his rookie year.

They stuck with him through some early shooting struggles — Scott pointed to a particularly rough 8-for-33 shooting performance in Philadelphia late in his rookie year. They all believed in him as a player and what he could represent.

"“Those guys [early coaches like Matt Guokas and Brian Hill] need just as much credit because they allowed me to push the envelope then,” Scott said after his induction on Thursday. “Nobody was taking 10 threes in 1990. I was the only one. So the fact they allowed me to do it. I always say the basketball gods gave me Shaq and Penny. Now guys do all the dribbling. Nope, I’m going to throw it into Shaq and Penny and I dare you to go double. You go double, then it’s time for me to eat now.”"

Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival, of course, put his value into overdrive. Suddenly there was a big man soaking up attention and forcing defenses into the difficult choice of doubling O’Neal or leaving Scott — and the other shooters the Magic started collecting — open from beyond the arc.

This only previewed the revolution that was coming to the NBA.

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Scott finished his Magic career averaging 14.8 points per game in his seven seasons with the team. He shot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Despite the 3-point revolution the Magic further ushered in 2009 and the increase in 3-point attempts and the importance of the shot he pioneered, Scott remains at the top of almost every 3-point shooting mark in Magic history.

Dennis Scott is the franchise’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (981, he has 284 more than Terrence Ross), second in 3-point attempts (behind Nick Anderson who stayed with the team for three seasons after Scott’s departure), and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (trailing Cuttino Mobley’s half season at 46.4 percent and especially impressive because of the volume he shot at).

He set a then-record 11 3-pointers in a game against the Atlanta Hawks late in the 1996 season. That was a record that stood for nearly a decade before Kobe Bryant broke it.

Perhaps surprisingly he is eighth in steals at 429, proving that he could defend a little — part of the deal that allowed him to shoot all of those threes.

But all of his 3-point records stood for a long time, even as 3-point shooting became the primary weapon in the NBA.

"“As a person, he was incredible,” Martins said. “As a player, he was even more incredible. The fact that his 3-point record still stands as franchise records today is absolutely incredible. Especially in this day and age of the 3-pointer. Dennis was really on the front end of the proliferation of shooting the 3-pointer in the NBA. And here we are so many years later and his records still stand. That’s why he is really deserving of being in our Hall of Fame.”"

Every bit of that 3-D nickname was earned — a nickname that came from Paul Porter’s booming voice in the Orlando Arena early in his career. And he was synonymous with the 3-point shot in the early years of the Magic and perhaps still to this day. He is still the first person Magic fans likely think of when they think of the best 3-point marksman in the league.

His legacy still stands for that. Everyone knew when Scott was on the floor to be wary of him as a shooter at all times. And everyone knows when Scott is around that he is going to make everyone feel warm and welcome.

In the early days of the Magic, both of these things were important to establishing who the Magic are and would be. Scott was fundamental to the Magic’s history and a pillar for the league’s present in so many ways.

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Getting a chance to recognize that Thursday at the Magic Hall of Fame was a special moment for everyone and long deserved.