The Orlando Magic only have one classic team in this year’s NBA 2K20 game, but they should have more than that.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all got more time to play NBA 2K instead of actually watching basketball. No wait, that’s definitely the reason. But a look at the classic teams you can play as in the game throws up, unsurprisingly, only one Orlando Magic roster from years past.
We say unsurprisingly because the Magic at this point may be the most slept on organization in the entire league. This was understandable when they were fumbling their way through an awful rebuild that took up most of the last decade for them. But with Aaron Gordon, who is more than a player, Jonathan Isaac and even the enigmatic Markelle Fultz, times have changed.
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The Orlando Magic deserve to be spoken about more, but they’re not. It should come as no surprise then that, beyond the 1994-95 iteration of the team, you can’t play as any other roster in franchise history. On the one hand that’s alright, that version of the Magic was the one that beat Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the playoffs after all.
But on the other hand, an attitude like that isn’t going to get you to the top of the pile anytime soon. The Magic should have at least one other team in there, perhaps two, and the addition of some new classic squads this year only hammers home this point more.
The team we’re talking about that should be in there, of course, is the 2008-09 Magic. Not because they reached the NBA Finals, but also kind of because they reached the NBA Finals. But they had prime Dwight Howard, fan-favorite Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and a young J.J. Redick. They even had Tyronn Lue, Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus. Even Tiger Woods was court side.
Look at all those names, together in one place. If that doesn’t deserve to be used by a whole new generation of fans then what does? This version of the Magic absolutely should be in the game, and there’s another hugely important reason as well. To see how they’d match up against today’s squads.
The “7-seconds-or-less” Phoenix Suns squad of 2004-05 is often talked about as the prototype offense for the direction the league would ultimately go in. Seeing them put in today’s NBA would be lots of fun, and it is no surprise that they are in NBA 2K20. But the Magic that came after them were one step closer again to looking like a roster in today’s league.
They put four shooters around Howard, and they took a lot of 3-pointers. Turkoglu was a point-forward in how he handled the ball for them on a lot of possessions, and alongside Lewis they stretched opponents in all manner of directions. Who wouldn’t want to play as that against the present-day Houston Rockets for example?
What makes this even more slanderous is the fact that some other rosters who accomplished less are now in the game ahead of the Magic. The 2009-10 Portland Trail Blazers? A great what-if story because of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy (alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller), but they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Suns.
The 2013-14 Indiana Pacers? Paul George is amazing and they made the conference finals, but they fell to the Miami Heat, who at that point had LeBron James. The 2009 Magic went one step further than that, beating James in the process. The 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies? We all enjoyed the “Grit N’ Grind” era, but they too fell at the Conference Finals.
We’re not trying to take anything away from these organizations at those great times in their own histories, but come on now. Howard had won the Defensive Player of the Year award for the first time and would win it for the next two years after this as well. Nelson and Lewis were All-Stars, and Turkoglu can’t have missed out by much.
So why is this version of the Magic overlooked? Why are they constantly overlooked period? Being in a football state doesn’t help, and neither does sharing the state of Florida with the Heat, who have been mostly better in the time both franchises have existed. Orlando is a small enough market, yet they’ve had more than their fair share of star players of the years.
Shaquille O’Neal. Penny Hardaway. Tracy McGrady. Grant Hill. Some version of Vince Carter. Howard. Even Victor Oladipo (not that fans knew what they had at the time). NBA 2K does an amazing job of bringing the game to life, and they have highlighted a great selection of past rosters with the teams they have in the game currently.
How could you leave the 2008-09 Orlando Magic off that list? If we’re getting really pedantic about this, how about the 1995-96 Magic? They were coming off a first finals appearance, went 59-23 and had O’Neal, Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Horace Grant on the roster. They fell to the Bulls in the Conference Finals sure, but that qualified lesser past teams to get into the game.
It is unclear what, if anything, will ever get casual fans and those who make games and lists to give the Magic more props. They’ve been in existence just over 30 years, and have two finals trips and a handful of stars to have come through (no matter their injury history) during that time.
That’s the kind of resume the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets could only dream of in that space of time. Not to pick on them, but the Orlando Magic’s history is storied considering how long they’ve been around. Maybe one day those at NBA 2K and beyond will come to see this.