Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement opens the door for others

The Orlando Magic retired Shaquille O'Neal's jersey this week. The ceremony for the most dominant player of all time may open the door for other Magic legends to receive this high honor.
Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic
Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

It was about time the Orlando Magic retired Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32 and hung it high in the rafters at Kia Center.

Some decisions take time, and some are no-brainers. The discussion of "should he" never should have been. And now, unveiling his jersey in Central Florida, he completed his journey that all started in Orlando.

The Orlando Magic have officially retired the jersey of perhaps their greatest player. Shaq came to define the Magic. This guy was bigger than life after being selected No. 1 by the Orlando Magic in 1992, lifting the Magic to notoriety and its first run of success.

O'Neal not only had the presence you would want in a center, but he also had the personality that made him a household name in multiple demographics. O'Neal was a magnetic personality that people could do nothing but flock to.

This ceremony in Orlando had to be a full circle moment for the NBA Hall of Famer, enjoying the fruits of his labor and returning to a place that always had special meaning for him and his career, even though he ultimately sought riches and glory elsewhere.

Everyone recognized that it was long overdue for the Magic to retire his jersey. If the team did not retire Shaq's No. 32, it would be impossible to recognize anyone this way.

It certainly seemed like this day would not happen. Magic CEO Alex Martins insisted that the team had set criteria to retire jerseys when they introduced the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame a decade ago and that no one had met it yet.

O'Neal was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame a few years later. He said before Tuesday's ceremony that he thought that would be all the recognition he would get from his original franchise. It was still a necessary honor and test to bring O'Neal home.

Things do evolve and change. With the team's 35th anniversary, Martins said the franchise decided it was time for a shift. It was now the right time to start hanging jerseys. O'Neal seemed surprised to receive the call and humbled to be the first.

The ceremony though brought the next logical question: Who is next?

The ceremony opened up the idea of more Orlando Magic legends being honored like this — specifically, Anfernee Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, and Dwight Howard. Shaquille O'Neal put his pitch in for Nick Anderson to get his No. 25 retired, too, even going so far as to say he thought Anderson should have had his jersey up in the rafters before him.

The Magic have not hinted at who might be next to get their jersey retired or when that might come -- they likely will return to the task of filling their Hall of Fame. But that time is coming.

Now that Orlando has honored O'Neal, these three guys deserve to be mentioned in the conversation about having their jerseys retired.

Hardaway was the best point guard that the organization had ever had and received perhaps the loudest ovation of the night when he spoke at O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony. He was an All-NBA point guard with the Magic, earning first-team honors in 1995 in his second season in the league.

In 1995, Hardaway averaged 21.7 points per game, 7.1 assists per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. He was among the first players to play the point guard position at 6-foot-7. His length made it hard on defenders because he could post up and extend the defense with his three-point shot.

McGrady was probably the best all-around basketball player the organization has ever seen. He was one of the first Magic players to attack the basket and play above the rim forcefully. He was a two-time scoring champion while playing in Orlando. There was a time when he was arguably the best player in the NBA -- message boards eagerly debated who was better between Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, with their team results ultimately being the only dividing line.

In 2003, McGrady had his best season wearing the Magic blue, averaging 32.1 points per game, 5.5 assists per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. He was a threat from three-point range, a menace on the floor in isolation, and could jump out of the gym. He shot 38.6 percent from three-point range this year as well.

Dwight Howard has to have his jersey retired by the Orlando Magic when he finally decides to hang up his basketball shoes.

Howard was considered the best center in the league while wearing the Magic blue. He was the best rim defender in the NBA for at least five straight years. His defensive prowess was unmatched, and his dominance on the boards was enough for his jersey to be raised.

He had a better career than Shaq had with the Magic, leading the Magic back to the Finals in 2009 and earning the Magic's lone Finals victory. He anchored the most sustained run of success in Magic history.

In 2009, Howard took an Orlando Magic squad to the Finals to battle against Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers. That season, he averaged 18.3 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game.

Howard was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner from 2009-11. He was feared for his alley-oop dunks and his blocking ability. He deserves to be in the conversation simply because he was the Magic's best defender and has the Magic scoring record. Howard became the career points leader in franchise history after scoring 11,435 points.

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So, the conversation for Anfernee Hardaway, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard has officially begun. Only time will tell when their jerseys are lifted into the rafters.