Orlando Magic 35th Anniversary: 35 best players in Magic history
8. Darrell Armstrong (1995-2003)
By Coby Leibowitz
At number eight, we have Darrell Armstrong who played nine great seasons for the Orlando Magic. He was a big part of the Shaquille O’Neal years and the post-Shaq era in Orlando.
Armstrong often gets forgotten about in Magic history because of his fairly meager stats, but he is very deserving of the number 8 spot for the popularity and energy he brought to the team.
In his time with the Magic, Armstrong averaged 11.7 points, 5.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He had 66 games with 20-plus points, four games with at least 30, and 40 double-doubles.
Armstrong was a point guard who could score and facilitate at an extremely high level.
He was an outstanding defender too. Armstrong would often take the task of defending the other team’s best guard, and he averaged at least a steal per game since his first start on the Magic. He had two seasons where he averaged more than 2.0 steals per game.
Armstrong racked up some accolades too. He won the Most Improved Player award and the 6th Man of the Year award in the same season in 1999. He was a two-time Player of the Week. And he was top five in the league in steals twice and had a season where he was third in plus/minus.
Armstrong was a part of five Magic playoff teams and he was best in the bright lights. In the playoffs, he averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
One of Armstrong’s most memorable moments came in 1999 against the Philadelphia 76ers when he stole an inbounds pass and scored at the other end to beat the buzzer and win the game for the Magic. One of the greatest game-winners in Magic history.
Armstrong was extremely efficient too. He had career shooting splits of 41.9/34.6/88.8. He had four seasons where he shot better than 35 percent from three, and two seasons better than 34, including a high of 36.8 percent not including the season where he played 13 games and shot 50 percent.
Back then when three-point shooting was not as prominent that was extremely impressive.
His mid-range game was elite too. He was a career 41.3 percent mid-range shooter with the Magic and had a season-high of 44.5 percent in 1999.
The numbers do not capture what made Armstrong special though. He was the heart and soul of the famed Heart & Hustle team of 2000, endearing himself to fans by drinking several cups of coffee before games to increase his energy. He was a constant taking charges and diving on the floor for loose balls.
His humble beginnings — he was playing for the tiny CBA when the Magic discovered him in 1995 after stints in Greece and elsewhere following a collegiate career at nondescript Fayetteville State — only added to his legend.
Armstrong played every game like it was his last and always left everything on the floor.
He was a great point guard who could basically do it all, and do it all efficiently and effectively. There is no doubt that he deserves the number 8 spot on this list.