Who are the Orlando Magic’s biggest rival in this new era?

Apr 2, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) and Detroit Pistons center Jalen Duren (0) compete for a rebound during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) and Detroit Pistons center Jalen Duren (0) compete for a rebound during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

Rivalries in the modern NBA tend to be fluid. And that is no different for the Orlando Magic.

Across the league, there are clear historic rivalries like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics or Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. There are geographical rivalries like the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets or the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers.

Although valued in tradition, these matchups lack some of the “juice” they may have once held historically. The players have changed, years have passed, and new stories have been written.

Many blame AAU culture, better relationships among players or a more connected league for ridding the league of the hate that fed the constant battles of the 1980s and 1990s during the NBA’s rise. Dissertations have been written on the negative aspects of player movement and its effect on team-based fandom.

Some have even blamed rules preventing less contact for softening the rivalries around the league and the bitterness that comes from repeated high-stakes games.

It could be any one of these or more likely a combination of many different factors.

However you shake it, rivalries in the NBA seem to be more individual-based and revolve around specific situations.

Rivalries around the NBA are changing as teams compete for their spot on the NBA mountain. The Orlando Magic are just getting started but already there are budding rivalries for the franchise on the rise.

Take the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies for example. If you throw Draymond Green, Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant into a beaker, there is going to be an explosive reaction. And there have been in the postseason recently bleeding into this past season.

Or the Grizzlies and Lakers even. Maybe the Grizzlies are the common denominator here.

In a similar sense in the Eastern Conference, you could list any number of teams as a rival for the Philadelphia 76ers, but that has more to do with Joel Embiid than it does any of their opponents.

The same can be said of the Miami Heat. Their rough style of play and brash demeanor tend to rub teams the wrong way. Sprinkle in a Kyle Lowry flop or two and you have the perfect storm for a couple of dust-ups. And they do not seem to mind.

For a team like the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat are their natural rivals. Even though the heat have lapped the Magic as a championship outfit, their rivalry dates back to each franchise’s founding. They have both been fighting each other for statewide supremacy and respect around the league against each other.

And the Magic’s wins over the Heat still feel very significant and important. Especially for a young Magic team on the rise trying to build their own fan base in their own backyard and building.

The only problem with this rivalry at the moment is there does not seem to be any individual player rifts. The Magic players do not hate the Heat any more than the rest of the league. This is likely due to the discrepancy in success and overall timelines between the teams.

Sadly, the Heat have been a contender for years and the Magic are just trying to get on their level. The Magic defeating the Heat simply means more to Orlando than it does to Miami. Miami fans may not even really think of Orlando with any type of feeling.

Simply put, the Magic-Heat rivalry is more on a fan-to-fan basis than it is real hatred on the court.

Having a team or two in mind at the end, let’s debunk some of the Magic’s other “almost” rivals.

The Bulls used to be a big rival in the 1990s, but both teams have not been relevant enough at the same time to rekindle things.

All Magic fans hate the Lakers, for obvious reasons. But the theft of Shaquille O’Neal and the 2009 Finals defeat are far enough away that things may have died down. It is more a simmering feeling. And the Lakers certainly have no thoughts about the Magic — except for the occasional teasing of trying to sign Paolo Banchero.

You could say the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors qualify as rivals. But the Magic really have not challenged them enough recently to deserve any real hate.

That leads us to the big reveal. Who are the Magic’s current rivals? Who are the teams they are actually competing against and creating some kind of animosity with?

I propose the Orlando Magic adopt two new era rivals – the Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons. Let the hate flow through you and then I will make my case.

The Hawks’ connection to the current Magic is pretty straightforward. D

Dejounte Murray and Paolo Banchero really do not like each other, even if they claim to have patched up their relationship after the beef last offseason.

The drama did not really lead to anything notable on an actual NBA court, but you never know when it could rear its head again.

Both teams are also on a similar timeline and could be meeting in some playoff series in the near future. Despite being adored by the younger generation, Trae Young is decently easy to dislike. The two teams have had some solid games against each other too.

The Hawks are the Magic’s aspirational goal too. Orlando is looking to take Atlanta’s Play-In spot.

Now for the Pistons, my main reason for choosing them actually does not even have that much to do with the brawl last season that caused 11 players to be suspended.

Moe Wagner and Killian Hayes were the main instigators and with both being role players it is hard to count on them to have continued negative interactions. Not to say that Wagner does not possess the ability to anger someone else on the Pistons. But you never know when one or both of Wagner or Hayes will be moved.

The main thing to note between the Magic and Pistons is their similar timeline and players who may have personal reasons to destroy the other team.

There is the obvious number 1 pick competition between Paolo Banchero and Cade Cunningham. Franz Wagner might also have a bone to pick with Cade Cunningham as the best player in the 2021 draft class. Jaden Ivey may have the same motivation to best Paolo Banchero.

With both teams drafting near the top of the last 4-5 drafts, there are definitely player connections. If both teams continue to develop as planned, there is huge potential for playoff showdowns for years to come.

As with anything else in the league, things will take place that open up new rivalry opportunities. No one saw the Dejounte Murray and Paolo Banchero thing coming and the Killian Hayes-Moe Wagner incident came out of nowhere.

Situations may change that vamp the Heat rivalry back up or the Magic may become great enough to be hated by every team in the Eastern Conference, you just never know.

Wendell Carter deserves a look for Team USA. dark. Next

With the information that we currently have, I would place the most stock in the either the Hawks or the Pistons to become enemy number one in Orlando.