Orlando Magic 35th Anniversary: 35 best players in Magic history
10. Horace Grant (1995-99, 2002-03)
By Philip Rossman-Reich
Every team needs a Horace Grant. Every young team getting more serious about winning needs a Horace Grant.
Next summer, the Orlando Magic will likely be looking for a grizzled veteran who has made a deep playoff run to bring onto the team and impart his wisdom to the rest of the bunch. Maybe that will end up being Joe Ingles. But that seemingly minimizes the impact he had on the 1995 Magic.
The Magic were a brash team at that point — even their gambit to trade draft picks for cap room was a new thing. They were investigated for tampering even in their bid to acquire Grant after his All-Star season in 1994.
Horace Grant gave the Magic the physical enforcer and floor spacer they needed around Shaquille O’Neal. More than that, he provided a voice of calm to a young team that was on the cusp of title contention. He also knew when to get out of the way as he advised coach Brian Hill to leave him on the bench and let the group on the floor finish off a 12-0 run to defeat the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of their second-round series.
Horace Grant’s stats are not entirely pretty — 11.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, which includes a rougher two-year stint during the Tracy McGrady years (it ended with an acrimonious exit where Grant got into an argument with coach Doc Rivers).
But again, his value was his leadership and toughness and defense. And he gave the Magic all of that for that breakthrough season. There may not be a more important free agent acquisition in Magic history — Rashard Lewis probably has an argument along with Tracy McGrady as the lone superstar to move to Orlando in free agency.
When the Magic are building their championship teams they are looking for echoes from successful teams in the past. And so as they look to move out of this rebuilding phase, the Magic are likely trying to think of how they can find someone with the experience to guide this young team like Grant did in 1995.
Every team needs a Horace Grant.