In 1996 the Orlando Magic were coming off a 60-win season. They had built a team that was a perennial contender and were on their way to multiple championships. Then, without warning, their 24-year old star center Shaquille O’Neal left for Los Angeles. The Magic never won any championships and wouldn’t advance to another NBA Finals until 2009.
The man who wounded the Magic so deeply is now back for more. With the releasing of Magic general manager Otis Smith Monday, it has been reported that O’Neil wants the vacant job. The former Magic star has been rumored to have wanted the position for several years and he now looks poised to try to take it. But his arrival as general manager would mean devastation for the franchise.
Shaquille O’Neal hates Orlando and it’s Magic. He’s made that clear many times throughout his professional career. When he left Orlando in 1996 he called Orlando a “small pond” just after signing with the Lakers. His media war of words with current Magic star center Dwight Howard has even further expanded his hatred for all things Magic.
Nothing would give O’Neal more pleasure than seeing one the best NBA teams over the past five years become irrelevant just as they were when he left. If he takes over as general manager of the Magic, that’s exactly what will happen. It will be O’Neal’s chance to seize revenge on an area that has hated him ever since that mid-July in 1996.
Magic vice president Pat Williams was the man who brought the NBA to Orlando in 1989 and Rich DeVos has owned the Magic since 1991. They remember seeing O’Neal holding up a Lakers jersey on the news back in 1996 and the 10 years it took to recover from that. Because of position of those two men, it is highly unlikely that O’Neal will even be considered for the position of general manager. They understand what he would do to the organization if given the chance.
When the position of general manager opens up for a franchise, often former players come up as possible candidates. Several of those players actively seek the position. However, few players have as much loathing for a former team as O’Neal does for the Orlando Magic. If he were to become general manager of the Magic, it would be at least 10 years for the franchise to recover.