Happy Birthday to Nick Anderson aka Mr Orlando Magic
When I met Robert Horry I said “Do you know who are the two people I hated the most in mid 90s?” and he replied “Me and who else?” I said “Nick Anderson” and Big Shot Rob of the 95 NBA championship team laughed. The reason why I hated the two is because I was an Orlando Magic fan and those are the two players that broke my heart the hardest during the 95 NBA Finals between the Magic and Clutch City Rockets.
Nick Anderson turns a year older today and is currently working with the Magic organization as community ambassador and also serves as a commentator for Fox Sports Florida. He’s also been long forgiven by sad 90’s Magic fans like me and was even honored by the Orlando Magic last November on “Legends Night” because he is a legend in Orlando. He might not get mentioned as much as Penny and Shaq as part of the young team that every NBA player, coach and GM felt was going to be the team to beat if they stayed together but Nick Anderson was that player that stayed and wanted to stay. Along with Jameer Nelson, Anderson is the only other Magic player to ever spend 10 years with the franchise and was the franchise leader in points until Dwight Howard broke the record a few years ago.
Now, it might seem odd to honor Nick Anderson by talking about arguably the worst moment of his career rather than talking about his clutch performance against MJ when Jordan scored 64 or that time Nick stole the ball from Jordan during the 1994 playoffs or any other moment the Chicago born star had against the Chicago Bulls’ GOAT. But this is the moment, that memorable moment, that made me hate him then and love him more now.
The scene of the crime was Game 1 of the 95 Finals. The Orlando Magic blew a 20 point lead but still had a 3 point lead with 10.5 seconds on the clock and Nick Anderson at the free throw line. All he had to do was hit 1 of 2. He missed the first. He missed the second but was lucky enough to get the offensive board and go back to the charity stripe for 2 more shots at redemption. He ended up missing both of those. That divine intervention gave the Rockets a chance and Kenny Smith came through with another 3 pointer to put the game into OT. In OT, it was a back and forth affair that ended with a game winning tip-in by Hakeem Olajuwon. The demoralized Magic would lose the next 3 games.
Shaq would miss the majority of the next season with an injury which allowed Penny Hardaway to become 2nd to only Jordan in popularity, but it would be Jordan’s Bulls that knocked off the Magic in the playoffs that year too and then came the end of the Batman and Robin team in Orlando. Shaq would leave Orlando to join his new Robin in LA while the Magic franchise struggled to recover. No player struggled to recover more from that game than Nick Anderson.
“It affected the way I played,” he said. “It affected the way I lived. It played in my head like a recorder – over and over again.”
Nick Anderson went from a 74 percent free throw shooter to a 40 percent free throw shooter after that season. He played a few more mediocre years including a very forgettable stint with the Kings and Grizzlies but now he’s back with the organization that drafted him when he was 21 and honored him 23 years later.
Now that I got the worst moment out of the way I can now honor him by showing some great moments from his career including his famous steal against Michael Jordan during Game 1 of the 95 Eastern Conference Semifinals.