One of ESPN’s newest “30 for 30” documentaries, This Magic Moment, follows the fashion in American pop culture of late by taking us back to the 1990s (indeed, sometimes I get worried that the Macarena is about to make a comeback), specifically to the time when it seemed as though the Orlando Magic were the team of the future in the NBA. Graced by the presence of most of the core Magic players and executives, the documentary does a superb job of showing one of the great “what ifs” in sports history.
This Magic Moment illustrates how much of a sports backwater Orlando was as late as the 1980s, and therefore the gamble the NBA took in granting prospective ownership a franchise. College football was king in Florida before the Magic and the Miami Heat were formed in 1986. These two teams represented a big breakthrough, though, for pro sports in Florida. In the 1990s, the Florida (now Miami) Marlins and Tampa Bay (then Devil) Rays arrived in MLB, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, not to mention various busted MLS experiments. The Magic led the way in this new wave of pro sports in the state. Even the early years of bad Magic teams saw the Orlando Arena packed to the gills. The club successfully hosted the 1992 All Star Game where Magic Johnson returned for the first time after contracting HIV.