Orlando Magic 35th Anniversary: 35 best players in Magic history
5. Nick Anderson (1990-99)
By Harrison Brown
As the first pick in the Orlando Magic’s franchise history, Nick Anderson transcends what he did on the basketball court for the organization. And his loyalty to the team that drafted him is a testament to his character and appreciation for the Magic.
As a rookie, Anderson established himself as a key piece for the development of the Magic’s future. He played in 81 games during his first season and averaged 11.5 points per game. As a winning-caliber team was building around him, he continued to improve.
In his third and fourth seasons with the team, he blossomed and averaged 19.9 points, 3.1 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. Nick Anderson was the second leading scorer during the 1993 season behind the budding superstar Shaquille O’Neal. That included scoring 50 points in a late-season game against the New Jersey Nets — a game overshadowed by O’Neal tearing the basket down.
Anderson was willing to take a secondary and even tertiary role for the betterment of the team. When the team drafted Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson let Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal be ball dominant while he complemented their play as a scorer, wing defender and veteran presence.
Anderson has two of the most memorable moments in Magic basketball history. He played an instrumental role in leading the team to its first NBA Finals appearance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls.
In Game 1, he stole the ball from Michael Jordan from behind that eventually led to a Horace Grant dunk that gave the Magic a 92-91 lead over the Bulls with 6.2 seconds remaining. This win set the tone for the series as Orlando closed out a 4-2 series victory.
His other memorable moment is not quite the feel-good story. But in Game 1 of the Finals against Houston, Anderson missed four free throws while the Magic were up three and the Rockets battled back to force overtime. Orlando ended up getting swept in the Finals and potentially changed the course of their history.
Anderson ended up playing four more seasons for the Magic after their Finals run and averaged 14.2 points per game in the tail end of his time in Orlando. The missed free throws still haunt the fan base, but he is so much more to this organization and was the true cornerstone of the franchise as its first-ever draft pick.
He is pivotal in this team’s history and played 10 seasons, averaging 15.4 points, 2.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his time with the team.
He is a beloved figure in the Orlando community, actively engaging in philanthropic events and connecting with fans. Anderson stills works for the Magic in community relations and as a commentator for Magic home games.
Anderson currently ranks second in points, fourth in rebounds, fifth in assists, first in steals, first in games played, second in minutes played, second in three-pointers made and fourth in free throws made.
He will forever be cemented as a Magic great and remains a source of inspiration to the current roster that a young team can become championship contenders in Orlando.