The Orlando Magic was established in 1989 as one of four expansion teams that would join the NBA that season. The name “Magic” was chosen by the fans in Florida, as a contest was held by the owners and Orlando Sentinel to allow the community to choose the team name. Their initial season was met with minimal success, as most first seasons are for expansion teams, going just 18-64 in the 1989 season. There was much improvement for the team in 1990, led by Scott Skiles who was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player that season. The team increased its win total by twelve games, the best improvement by any team that season. Despite missing the playoffs, the team was sold to Richard DeVos for $85 million in 1991. In the first season beneath the new owner the Magic saw a slew injuries lead a poor record, tallying only 21 wins. Their lackluster season allowed them to win the first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft through the lottery system; a pick that would change the face of the franchise.
The Magic selected LSU center Shaquille O’Neal, regarded by some as the best big man of all time, with the first pick of the draft. For the second time in three seasons the Magic were again the most improved franchise in the league, boasting their first season of .500 ball with a 41-41 record. Their win total put them into the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, but the Magic missed out on their first ever postseason birth due to a tiebreaker with the Indiana Pacers. This would work out well for the Magic, as missing the playoffs allowed it to stay in the lottery, which the franchise would eventually win a shocking upset.
The 1993 season brought the Magic it’s first winning record, making the playoffs in the fourth seed. They were promptly swept in the first round, but would rebound to make the NBA Finals in 1994. Orlando was the quickest expansion team in the NBA to make the Finals in league history, although the Magic would be swept by the Houston Rockets. In 1995 the Magic would again have another successful season, making the Eastern Conference Finals led by O’Neal and Tim Hardaway. The Chicago Bulls ended the Championship hopes of the Magic in a four game sweep, ending the O’Neal era in Orlando. Shaquille left for the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason in the summer of 1995, creating the famous duo of Shaq and Kobe Bryant.
In the first season without Shaq, the Magic fired its head coach, bringing on Richie Adubato as the man in charge. Under Adubato’s leadership, as well as Hardaway and Darrell Armstrong, the Magic would return to the postseason once again, where it would lose in the first round. Orlando got back on course in 2000 with the signing of free agents Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. Even though the players were new, the results in the postseason remained the same, with the Magic once again being bounced in the opening round. McGrady blossomed into a superstar of the league, making the All-Star team in 2000 and 2001. While TMac, as McGrady was known, was named to the All-NBA team in 2001, history repeated itself with another first round exit for the Magic.
The 03-04 season, the Magic were the worst team in the league, leading to the dismantling of the team, a new head coach in Johnny Davis, and another number one overall pick. With their selection of Dwight Howard and a trade for Jameer Nelson, the Magic had a new core of players. While a number of moves were made to bolster the roster, it would take until 2006 for the Magic to get back to the postseason. 2007 was an odd offseason for the Magic, as it hired Billy Donovan as head coach for five days, and gave Rashard Lewis a $110 million contract that few believed he deserved. Still, the team got its first playoff series victory over the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the 2008 postseason. The run would end against the Detroit Pistons once again.
The Magic regrouped and came back stronger than ever with Vince Carter and Heidu Turkoglu as new acquisition. Orlando reached its second Finals in 2008, only to lose to the Lakers in five games. The next few seasons were successful for the franchise, but the team has not been able to get back to the Finals. The Magic continue to be led by Dwight Howard, while some star players such as Vince Carter and Patrick Ewing have come and gone over the years. This seasons season long drama ended with the firing of head coach Stan Van Gundy.