When I met Robert Horry, the very first thing I said was, “Do you know who are the two people I hated the most in the mid-90s?”
He replied, “Me and who else?”
I said “Nick fucking Anderson.”
That got a big laugh out of Big Shot Rob of the 95 NBA championship team. The reason why I hated the two is that 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 a 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 that memorable moment that made me hate him then and love him more now.
The scene of the crime was Game 1, where the Orlando Magic blew a 20-point lead but still had a three-point lead with 10.5 seconds on the clock and Nick Anderson at the free throw line. All he had to do was hit one of two. 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 two 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 three pointer to put the game into OT. In the extra session, 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 three games.
Shaq would miss the majority of the next season with an injury, which allowed Penny Hardaway to become second to only Michael Jordan in popularity. As fate would have it, it would be Jordan’s Bulls — looking for revenge after getting eliminated by the Magic the year before — that knocked off the Magic in the playoffs that year. The end of the season also meant 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.