With the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic hold the number pick. There are conversations surrounding who should go number one: Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or even Paolo Banchero. The consensus is that Jabari Smith Jr. from Auburn will be selected number one. Since the regular season ended in April, the Magic have been tasked with evaluating and finding their next cornerstone.
That leads us into this article – a short history of the Orlando Magic’s number one overall picks. This will be the fourth time that the Magic have the liberty of drafting first. Their previous draft picks have worked out pretty well, with all three players likely finishing their careers in the NBA Hall of Fame. With that being said, let’s look back on those previous three first overall picks in the Orlando Magic draft history.
First Overall Picks in the Orlando Magic Draft History
1992 | Shaquille O’Neal – Center – LSU
The Orlando Magic began their NBA history in 1989 as an expansion team. After drafting Nick Anderson with the 11th overall pick, the franchise knew that they needed to add a big man, as centers were taking over the league. Three years later, a big, athletic center out of LSU was ready to make an impact on the league. The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal in hopes that he could serve as their franchise player.
Shaq instantly became a force in the NBA. His combination of size and athleticism was never before seen. In his rookie year alone, he averaged 23 and 14. The addition of Penny Hardaway (who we will get into later), proved to be the piece that Orlando needed to partner with O’Neal. After Michael Jordan’s retirement, there was a vacancy for the top dog in the East. The duo of O’Neal and Hardaway, along with Anderson, Dennis Scott and Horace Grant, were enough to lead the Magic to their first NBA Finals.
In his rookie season, he was the first rookie to start in an All-Star Game since Jordan. While Shaq never won a championship with Orlando, he did provide many great moments, including backboards shattering. Maybe his most impressive moment with Orlando was when he led the NBA in scoring, at 29.3 PPG in the 1994-95 season. So, although Shaq never led the Magic to a title, he was the pillar of the team in their early stages and helped to put the team on the map.
1993 | Chris Webber – Forward – Michigan
The year after O’Neal was drafted, the Magic once again held the first overall draft pick. Even though Michigan forward Chris Webber showed concern about going to Orlando, the Magic selected him anyway. The Magic then turned around and traded Webber to the Golden State Warriors for Memphis State guard Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway.
Hardaway and O’Neal became one of the most exciting duos in the league at the time. The peak of Hardaway’s Magic career came when he was selected to the All-NBA First team. So, if for all else, Chris Webber contributed to the Magic in everything that Penny Hardaway accomplished.
2004 | Dwight Howard – Center – High School
The Orlando Magic once again found themselves with the number one pick in 2004, during the high school revolution. The best player at the time regardless of high school or college was Dwight Howard from Atlanta, GA. In his rookie year, Howard averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds. Howard was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year with the Magic. The apex of his Orlando tenure came when he led the Magic over LeBron James in the playoffs and into the NBA Finals. While the Lakers got the best of them, the fans had something to root for.
Howard, much like O’Neal, was an energetic, celebrity-like figure. Given his performances in the Slam Dunk Contest, Howard was very popular and was becoming the face of the NBA. One of the best players in franchise history, Dwight Howard is what you think of, when you think of the Orlando Magic.
With three straight Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers drafted, does that bode well for Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren? The Magic have pieces on their time right that could work with a star player, i.e. Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter and Franz Wagner. Although we say it is hard to replicate greatness, the Magic have somehow found out how to do that three times.