5 ways the Orlando Magic have changed the NBA in 35 years

The Orlando Magic have had some transformative players and moments that have helped shape the NBA. (Photo by Larry W. Smith-Pool/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have had some transformative players and moments that have helped shape the NBA. (Photo by Larry W. Smith-Pool/Getty Images) /
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Dennis Scott, Orlando Magic
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 /

5 ways the Orlando Magic have changed the NBA

The Shooting Revolution

In today’s NBA, shooting is a given. It is perhaps the most essential skill an offense can have. And as offenses around the league become more and more efficient, the three-point shot is a big part of that change.

It was not always this way. For a long time, the 3-point line was a mere oddity. There were specialists for sure. But the league favored brute strength and physicality. They loaded their lineup with energy guys who could rebound and defend the interior rather than fly around the perimeter.

The Orlando Magic clearly understood this when they drafted Shaquille O’Neal in the 1992 NBA Draft. Everyone understood how much of a force O’Neal would be in the league from the moment he arrived — he had one of the absolute best rookie seasons in league history.

If Orlando did not win the lottery that year, they would have taken Alonzo Mourning or Christian Laettner as everyone else did.

But what the Magic did to build around O’Neal became revolutionary.

They had a truly revolutionary 3-point shooter in Dennis Scott already on the roster. He was already shooting more than four 3-pointers per game but O’Neal’s presence really changed things and changed the Magic’s entire strategy.

In the 1992 season (before the Magic drafted O’Neal), Orlando took only 7.2 3-point attempts per game. That is not a typo as that is an impossible number of makes to win in the modern NBA. But that was how things were played.

In O’Neal’s first season in 1993, the Magic averaged 10.8 attempts per game, eighth in the league. In 1994 with the addition of a big point guard in Anfernee Hardaway, the Magic averaged 13.9 3-point attempts per game, second in the league.

When the Magic made their run to the 1995 NBA Finals, the team averaged 17.2 attempts per game and that was just seventh in the league.

Orlando was not alone in this 3-point revolution that was occurring throughout the league. Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers, the constant run-and-gun play of the Denver Nuggets and even Dale Ellis and Sam Perkins on the Seattle Supersonics played a role in increasing 3-point attempts around the league as team tactics slowly changed.

light. Related Story. The Best Shooters in Orlando Magic History

But what was significant about the Orlando Magic of that era — along with the Houston Rockets — was they proved teams could win using this strategy. And win at the highest levels.

Seven of the top 10 teams in 3-point attempts made the playoffs with the eventual champion Rockets leading the way with 21.4 attempts per game (again, amazing how things have changed). Of those teams, three — the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets — all advanced past the first round.

The 3-point revolution had not fully arrived. But it was clear teams could not ignore the weapon any longer. And the way the Magic and Rockets spread the floor — the Magic had Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Hakeem Olajuwon around Shaquille O’Neal while the Rockets had Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell and Robert Horry surrounding Hakeem Olajuwon — became the standard for the league moving forward.