When the Orlando Magic were at the top of their game in the mid-1990s, the sense from the team’s front office was that for the next decade or more, they were going to be the team to beat in the NBA.
As ESPN Films’ next 30 for 30 “This Magic Moment” (tonight, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN) shows, unfortunately the fairy tale team didn’t have the fairy tale ending. The film – co-directed by ESPN Films’ senior producer Erin Leyden and producer Gentry Kirby – revisits those heady days when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway ruled pro basketball and pop culture.
Orlando offered one of the most captivating shows in the NBA and the Magic’s senior vice president, Pat Williams, was there for it all. He took some time to talk about the Shaq and Penny Era and his thoughts on the documentary.
What do you remember most from that Shaq and Penny Era?
What I remember most is the tremendous amount of excitement that was generated. I think we were all kind of amazed that these two young men could help generate that kind of fervor for this team that was really in its infancy. We had been working to get the team we started the fall of ‘89 with and suddenly we are the hottest sports entity in the country, just about. You couldn’t buy a ticket anywhere. . . it was a traveling circus.
You attended the film’s screening Orlando last week. How do you feel about the final product?
It was emotional and I remember sitting there when the lights came up and I didn’t want to get up; I just sat there for five minutes or so. I watched all the credits rolling. . . It was powerful. In the course of this documentary you go from these enormous highs, to a period of decline, and then really hitting the bottom with no real transition period in between. . . From my viewpoint, it’s two thumbs up. I would encourage all sports fans to set aside time – get your popcorn ready – have a nice cool soda on the deck and plan two hours of really interesting insights into the wacky world of pro basketball.