Shaquille O'Neal speaking at his Orlando Magic jersey retirement ceremony.
Feb 13, 2024; Orlando, Florida, USA; Shaquille O'Neal during a post game ceremony where the Orlando Magic retired his #32 jersey at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

O’Neal Becomes First Magic Player To Have Number Retired

Last night was historic for the Orlando Magic, as Shaquille O’Neal saw his No. 32 jersey retired. He became the first player to have his number retired in Magic franchise history.

O’Neal was drafted by the Magic in 1992. He quickly became a dominate forward in the league but spent just four years in Orlando. During that time, he brought home the NBA Rookie of the Year award, led Orlando to its first winning seasons as a franchise and even made an NBA Finals appearance in 1995.

O’Neal Leaves Lasting Impact on Magic

Shaq became a household name early in his career.

Before selecting him first overall, Orlando struggled. In just three years as a franchise, the Magic went a combined 70-176. Furthermore, during their best season, they had a win percentage of just .378, good enough to put them 4th in the Midwest division.

O’Neal’s rookie year, Orlando reached .500 for the first time ever. They also had their best offensive and defensive rating since joining the NBA and saw not one but two players in the top 20 for points on the season. O’Neal had an instant impact, ranking 8th in the league in points per game, 2nd in rebounds per game and blocks per game, and 9th in defensive rating. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year for his amazing debut season.

Over the course of the next three years, O’Neal would only get better. He averaged 29.3 points per game in both his second and third year, finishing second in MVP voting in year three. Shaw averaged a double-double in each of his four years with the Magic, with his rebounds per game never falling below 11. During that span, Orlando went 208-120, skyrocketing into consistent contenders.

Orlando Celebrates

Magic fans and legends filled the arena for the ceremony on Tuesday.  Their support and respect for Shaq is a symbol of his impact in Orlando.

In his speech, O’Neal made sure to shoutout his former teammate, Nick Anderson, and stated his belief that Anderson’s jersey should be up in the rafters as well.

Finally, he gave Magic fans something to look forward to, telling Magic ownership he is ready to come home and work for them whenever they are ready. While a return to Orlando is very much in question, there is no denying the importance of O’Neal’s time with the Magic.

After Tuesday’s ceremony, O’Neil’s jersey will be the first to forever remain in the Kia Center. The only question now is who’s will follow?

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