Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the Orlando Magic.
The Orlando Magic have played their entire existence within the modern era; they joined the NBA as part of the league’s four-team expansion in 1988 and 1989, coming into the league for the 1989-90 season along with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Like so many expansion teams, the Magic got off to a rough start, losing a franchise-record 64 games in their inaugural season.
The worm began to turn before the team played its fourth season, however, as Orlando won the draft lottery in 1992 and took LSU center Shaquille O’Neal and became a .500 team.
The following year, the Magic struck gold in the lottery again, winning the top pick. This time, though, the Magic traded the top selection, Michigan star Chris Webber, to the Golden State Warriors for Memphis point guard Anfernee Hardaway.
The tandem led the Magic to the postseason for the first time and they reached the Finals the very next year, 1994-95.
A franchise-record 60 wins followed in 1995-96, but O’Neal departed via free agency after the season.
Orlando remained relevant,m making the playoffs in five of the next seven seasons before bottoming out at 21-61 in 2003-04.
That wound up getting the Magic the top overall selection once again, a pick they used on Atlanta prep standout Dwight Howard.
Orlando was back in the postseason in 2007 and made the Finals once again in 2009.
Howard was traded after the 2011-12 season and the Magic have fallen back on hard times, winning just 43 games combined in the last two seasons.
Still, they’ve made the playoffs more than they haven’t in their 25 years, with 14 trips to the postseason.
Brian Hill, in two stints as head coach, is the top winner among Orlando coaches with a record of 267-192, and Stan Van Gundy, who had the job from 2007-08 through 2011-12, went 250-137 for the best winning percentage of the franchise’s coaches at .657.
Pat Williams was the team’s first general manager, starting two years before the franchise began play in 1987, and held the job until April 1996. He remains the longest tenured personnel manager in Orlando history. Current GM Rob Hennigan took the reins in June 2012.
And here are the best players, by position, for the Orlando Magic in the modern era, beginning in 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise and averaged 25 minutes per game.