Nick Anderson still "bleeds blue and white"

Magic's 1st draft pick recalls franchise's first decade

Nick Anderson already knows what he wants etched on his tombstone. Somewhere, it's going to say "Orlando Magic."

Retired from basketball since 2002, he feels strongly about what the Magic and the city of Orlando have meant to him.

And that's everything.

"They can get my plot ready," Anderson said. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I always want to be an Orlando Magic. I bleed blue and white."

As the Magic recognize their 25th anniversary as an NBA franchise, Anderson -- the original No. 25 – perfectly represents the club's history of highs and lows, the good times and the bad.

He played on an 18-win expansion team as the Magic's first-ever draft pick…

and on a club featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway that reached the NBA Finals six years later ….

only to be swept by the Houston Rockets, the unraveling beginning after Anderson – whose dramatic steal from Michael Jordan paved the playoff path -- missed four consecutive free throws in a Game 1 overtime loss.

And yet, you walk into Nick's home and the first item you see near the staircase is his Finals uniform. "That's very special to me," he said. "A lot of players go through their career and never make it to the Finals. No matter what, it's part of history here."

Anderson was there at the beginning, in 1989, helping put pro basketball on the map smack in the middle of football country.

He remains the longest-tenured Magic player at 10 years and is still with the team today, serving as a community ambassador the past six years.

"Twenty-five years has gone so fast, like a blink of an eye," he said. "I'm grateful I've been able to see this team the day it started to where it is now. I can say I was one of the few to have seen it all happen for the most part."

Anderson is 45 and a little grayer. He can still walk around town or inside the arena today and bump into long-time fans and season-ticket holders he met when the team was born.

"The thing I'll always remember is how people in Orlando embraced us. That first team, we felt it," he said. "They took us in. Everyone was so excited to have the NBA in town."

The excitement was so over the top that a sell-out crowd went bananas as the Magic upset the defending champion Detroit Pistons for the club's first win…in a preseason game.

Anderson and Michael Ansley were the two draft picks who played on a veteran-heavy team assembled through an expansion draft. Teams were allowed to protect a certain number of players, making the rest available to Orlando for the 1989-90 season.

The Magic selected Sidney Green, Reggie Theus, Terry Catledge, Sam Vincent, Otis Smith, Scott Smith, Jerry Reynolds, Mark Acres, Morlon Wiley, Jim Farmer, Keith Lee and Frank Johnson. They acquired veteran center Dave Corzine from the Chicago Bulls on draft night.

Matt Guokas, then the Magic coach, remembers standing on a small platform inside Orlando Arena to deliver the news of the Corzine trade to a rabid crowd of about 8,000.

Guokas and then Magic General Manager Pat Williams were thrilled to land a big man for just two second-round picks, but fans booed the announcement. Guokas was flabbergasted. "Pat said to me, 'You got to remember, this is football country and in football, second-round picks are valuable,'" Guokas said, laughing while re-telling the tale.

Well, maybe Orlando was not quite ready for the NBA. Guokas remembers that the Magic practiced at the Orlando Recreation Center, needing to finish before the lunchtime pick-up game between members tipped off, and watching Anderson's pre-draft workout at a stifling middle-school gym.


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