Coming off an outstanding junior year at the University of Illinois, the selection of Nick Anderson was a no-brainer. Later it was revealed that Denver had tried to move up in the draft in order to select Anderson. Fortunately for the Magic, Denver had sought Indiana’s 7th overall pick, but Indiana wanted too much in return. Their asking price was all-star guard, Lafayette Lever, and Denver wasn’t willing to part with Lever at the time.
At the end of the first round, David Stern announced the Magic’s acquisition of Dave Corzine and the relinquishing of two future second round picks. Matt Guokas walked out into the arena where thousands had gathered to watch the draft live to announce the pick before David Stern could. Upon learning of the Magic’s draft choice in Nick Anderson, the crowd had gone wild. When they heard that the Magic had already forfeited two future second round picks, they were furious! Matt walked back into the “war room” and told Pat Williams that he had been booed. Later, a writer from the Tampa Tribune, Bill Fay, surmised that since Orlando hadn’t ever had an NBA team they were comparing 2nd round picks to those of the NFL, where a second round pick has a much better shot at making an impact on a squad. In the NBA, a second round pick is usually considered to be a fringe player in most scenarios, with a few exceptions.
The Magic’s 2nd round pick would be the 10th pick, 37th overall. A really nice surprise pick was still available when Orlando’s turn came. Michael Ansley had played in Orlando’s All-Star Classic game two months prior and had been exceptional. It was estimated that the only reason his draft stock wasn’t higher was because he had a cyst removed from his back during the summer and was unable to compete in any other scouting events. The Magic snatched him up with their first-ever second round draft pick and the inaugural roster was nearly filled. Two weeks later, the Magic officially signed Jeff Turner as an unrestricted free agent and the team was complete.
Summer training camps began and the team began to gel. The Magic had their first scrimmage against Miami at Florida International University in Miami in front of nearly 4,000 jeering Heat fans. The rivalry was gearing up to be intense. The arena exploded with cheers as Rony Seikaly scored the first basket, but was quite subdued after the Magic won the game 105-103. Three days later they played a similarly hyped game at the UCF arena in Orlando. The Magic absolutely trounced the Heat, 102-78. Two games later against the Hawks and Hornets, respectively, and the Magic had swept the summer league.
On November 4th, 1989 the Magic played their first game ever against the New Jersey Nets. It was also the first professional sports game ever to be played in the city of Orlando. The Arena was at capacity with 15,077 screaming fans. Terry Catledge, the “Cat Man”, had a monstrous 25 points and 16 rebounds (10 of which were offensive rebounds) and went on the books as having Orlando’s first double-double. Reggie Theus had 21 points and 8 rebounds, while also hitting the Magic’s first three point shot (the only one they hit that night). Jerry Reynolds, Sam Vincent, and Dave Corzine rounded out the starting lineup. The Magic scored 106 points, but couldn’t contain the Nets defensively and lost their first game 111-106.
I’d like to take a moment to switch narratives, as Terry Catledge gave birth to the very first Orlando Magic moment that I can remember. I was five years old and attending my first Magic game at the O-rena. Terry Catledge was running the fastbreak down the floor and drove in for a nasty two handed dunk. Unfortunately, the ball hit the front of the rim, causing him to fall directly onto his back. That thud haunts my dreams to this day…back to the story.
Two days later, the Magic were slated to play the New York Knicks, another home game. This was the first time future Orlando Magic assistant coach, Patrick Ewing would play in Orlando. Despite an efficient 29 points from Ewing, the Magic were able to pull off a 118-110 victory, thanks to a balanced effort from the Magic squad. 7 players scored in double digits and both the Cat Man and Jerry Reynolds had double-doubles.
The Magic had their first road game in Cleveland two days after their first victory in Orlando. Despite going down by double digits in the first half, the Magic managed to force overtime after tying the score at 99 apiece at the end of regulation. Jeff Turner became the first Magic player to ever foul out of a game and Sam Vincent became the first Magic player to tally double digit assists (11). The Magic outscored the Cavaliers 18-11 in overtime and secured their first road victory and claimed their first ever winning record! Unfortunately, this is the only time they would hold that distinction for the remainder of their inaugural season, as the reality of expectations was about to come crashing down on the organization...