Orlando Magic 35th Anniversary: 35 best players in Magic history
7. Hedo Turkoglu (2005-09, 2011-13)
By Kyle Langan
For those of us who became Orlando Magic fans during the Dwight Howard era, Hedo Turkoglu was a central character and, hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, an improbable one.
Originally drafted by the Sacramento Kings, then traded to the San Antonio Spurs at the tail end of his rookie deal, Turkoglu was allowed to reach free agency, a sign the organization did not believe in the potential of the 6-foot-10 forward.
Lucky for us, John Gabriel and the Orlando Magic foresaw a player who would become a cornerstone of an NBA Finals team.
As a core piece of those exciting mid to late 2000s Magic teams, Turkoglu was the guy who had the rock in crunch time. And he came through more often than not in those high-pressure moments earning the moniker of “Mr. 4th Quarter.”
In the 2008 season, he led the Magic to the second round for the first time in a dozen years, racking up the 2nd most “clutch” points of any player during those playoffs. When the game was on the line Turkaglu outscored players such as Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and LeBron James. The only guy that he trailed in clutch points scored during that campaign? Kobe Bryant.
That year Turkoglu won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award but was snubbed from the All-Star game. He still takes umbrage with the slight, something he let be known in a recent appearance on the Knuckleheads Podcast.
A year later, he was a key piece in the Magic’s NBA Finals appearance, often playing a point forward role. While his scoring took a slight dip in the 2009 season and playoffs, Magic fans will remember his key block on Kobe Bryant in Game 2 of that series and, on the next possession, his gorgeous inbounds pass to Courtney Lee which could have won the game and evened the seres.
Always a great three-point shooter (38 percent in his run with the Magic), there was nothing flashy about Turkoglu’s game. Just a deliberate confidence that he was going to get his shot and that it was going to go in.
After getting so close to the zenith that is an NBA Championship, Turkoglu’s departure from the Magic was a bit unceremonious and disappointing.
Trying to find the missing piece to push the team over the top, Magic general manager Otis Smith signed Vince Carter, a player and contract that spelled an exit for Turkoglu who then signed with the Toronto Raptors.
The Vince Carter experiment did not work out and Turkoglu was back in 2011 in a blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns. But the magic was gone.
While the team won a ton of regular season games, Turkoglu and the Magic were never able to recapture the postseason success they realized during his first tenure.
Today Turkoglu serves as president of the Turkish Basketball Federation, but it’s not uncommon to see him sitting courtside at a Magic game during the Turkish offseason. And every time he graces the jumbotron, it is to raucous applause from Magic fans who will always remember Turkoglu coming through in the clutch and holding up the Orlando emblazoned on his chest.