The Magic are commemorating their 25th anniversary by bringing back their greatest players, and that requires the franchise to take the high road. We're talking nose-bleed high.
The Magic are working on plans to honor Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway -- in the flesh, despite their controversial exits.
It's a classy gesture by a class organization. And it's absolutely the right thing to do – even if the Magic risk an unpleasant reception by fans when Shaq and Penny wave to the crowd.
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Frankly, if the Magic and the DeVos family were the sort to hold public grudges, the franchise wouldn't have many stars to honor. Their four greatest players – Shaq, Penny, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard — all left in messy break-ups.
Not sure if the Magic will be recognizing Dwight or not, but they'll have their chance when his latest team, the Houston Rockets, come to town on March 5. They should fete Dwight, of course, given he made the club relevant for eight seasons.
The Magic let it be known that they will let bygones are bygones when they announced that T-Mac will be recognized before the Nov. 1 home-opener. His spectacular four-year run ended in a nasty steel-cage match with then GM John Weisbrod, who shipped him to Houston.
Ugly divorces are not uncommon between superstars and franchises, whether a star is traded, asks out or simply walks away. Popular figures can become unpopular in a hurry.
The Magic can't ignore— or erase — their history. You take the good with the bad, the bitter with the sweet … and put on a happy face when Shaq returns, hopefully not wearing the four championship rings he won elsewhere.
I commend the Magic, considering they must brace themselves for some booing by longtime season-ticket holders. (Maybe everyone will be civil. Can you heckle Shaq once you see him with perhaps his mother and his kids?)
Whatever transpires, the Magic are right to salute these stars, as uncomfortable as it might be:
SHAQ: O'Neal turned Orlando into a vibrant sports city just three seasons after it joined the NBA. He led Magic into the '95 Finals, but Shaq had bigger plans. He left Orlando's "dried-up pond" for the Lakers in '96. His exit was devastating, robbing the Magic of many title runs.
PENNY: The Magic won the lottery again in 1993, but acquired Hardaway from Golden State. The dynamic Penny joined Shaq to form Orlando's most talented team. O'Neal's departure left too large of a burden for Hardaway. He played a role in a player coup that ousted coach Brian Hill and was traded.
T-MAC: McGrady might have been third on Orlando's free-agent list in 2000 behind Tim Duncan and Grant Hill. But T-Mac became a two-time scoring champ, carrying the load with Hill forever injured. Mounting losses and clashes with Weisbrod — a hockey exec miscast as a GM — ended T-Mac's short but prolific stay.
DWIGHT: The Magic struck big-man gold again in 2004, building a bridge from the Hill/McGrady debacle. Howard grew from teen sensation to global superstar, returning Orlando to the Finals in 2009. Like Shaq, he wanted a bigger market. He forced his way out in an unprecedented calamity of events before being dealt last summer.
Magic Bracket Buster
As of mid-Friday afternoon, a whopping 48,000 votes had been cast in OrlandoSentinel.com's Orlando Magic Bracket Buster, our 64-player NCAA-style tournament designed to determine the Magic's all-time greatest player.
And there's a big upset looming as rookie Victor Oladipo, a No. 16 seed, was leading Penny Hardaway, a No. 1 seed, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Sounds like Oladipo's friends at Indiana University, his alma mater, are stuffing the ballot box, so to speak.
No way he should be beating Penny.
In another first-round match-up, Shaquille O'Neal leads Darko Milicic, 95 percent to 5 percent. How did Darko get any votes? Magic fans holding a grudge against Shaq perhaps?
Well, it's all in good fun. My pick to win the tournament? Tracy McGrady. Kobe Bryant recently said T-Mac was the toughest player he ever had to defend.
If you haven't cast your vote in our Magic Bracket Buster, click on OrlandoSentinel.com/bracket.
Howard was reminded how popular his former team and teammate --- the Lakers and Kobe Bryant – are in the Philippines. Howard, who left the Lakers for the Rockets, received scattered boos and chants of "Kobe" from fans Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, where Houston faced the Indiana Pacers in a preseason game. Wait until Dwight hears the reception at Staples Center when the Rockets play the Lakers on Feb. 19. … Oh, no. Another Achilles' tendon injury in the NBA. We wish a speedy recovery to Raptor, the Toronto mascot who recently hurt himself while performing in front of kids at a community event. … Michael Beasley has had his troubles through the years (namely marijuana) and he shouldn't be giving the Miami Heat any regrets over re-signing him. But there Beasley was during a preseason game against Detroit, punching himself in the head after a bad play. Beasley punched himself so hard that he needed treatment after the game, cold steel compresses applied to his brow. Maybe Beasley can knock some sense into himself; everyone else has tried. … Eat More Chickin? Lakers big men Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre, along with conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, have pooled their money to buy a cow. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA, Kaman, Sacre and DiFrancesco aren't keeping it as a pet. No, there are steaks to be eaten, approximately 400 pounds of cuts of meats for their freezers. DiFrancesco came up with the idea because he believes eating grass-fed beef has its health benefits. What, no Kobe beef?