Monday, June 11, 2018

Sports Card Tour 2018 - Orlando

The Collector's Sports Card Tour is going to Disney World! Today we're in Orlando.

Orlando has been home to the Magic since their inception in 1989. They were NBA finalists in 1995 and 2009.

The Magic became contenders overnight when Shaquille O'Neal arrived in 1992. Shaq's impact on the sports card and memorabilia world was as powerful as his thunderous dunks. Every kid I knew was suddenly ripping open packs of Topps, Upper Deck, and (when we could afford it) Fleer Ultra hoping to pull a Shaq RC.

Shaq memorabilia was everywhere, too. I never saw any Starting Lineup figures but I did have this Shaq Attaq figure in my hobby room for a few years.

The Shaq craze came at the perfect time for the NBA - and the hobby. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were nearing the end of their careers. ESPN's flagship highlight show Sportscenter was reaching its peak. Increased competition in trading cards meant more Shaq rookie cards-and more collectors. 

When Michael Jordan "retired" from the NBA, Shaq and his new wingman Anfernee Hardaway were ready to take over.

Well, almost. The Magic were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the 1995 Finals. Then MJ returned to basketball, thus closing the Magic's title window. Shaq left for the Lakers a year later.

Hardaway was very popular as well, and almost as marketable. (I didn't have a Lil' Penny doll.)

A devastating knee injury in 1997 derailed Hardaway's promising career. He's one of a small group of retired non-Hall of Famers whose cards I keep in my star player box.

ESPN's 30 for 30 Documentary "This Magic Moment" speculates on what might have happened had Shaq and Penny stayed together in Orlando. When that era ended, Orlando attempted to reload with superstars Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.

Hill's tenure with the Magic was defined by a chronic ankle injury. McGrady blossomed into a superstar, leading the NBA in scoring in two of his four seasons with the Magic. Even with T-Mac at the top of his game Orlando couldn't get out of the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Dwight Howard led the Magic to victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. Before their date with the Lakers in the championship one of the ladies I worked with asked me if I thought Orlando had a chance. I had absolutely no idea - I hadn't followed basketball in about a decade. She knew her stuff and I had a feeling that there wasn't anyone else in the office who I watched a little bit of the Finals and tried to keep up.

Since Shaq rookie cards have been devalued (to about a dollar on COMC) this Howard relic is my best Orlando Magic card. I had it on my watch list for over a year - the design and colors appealed to me but the price wasn't right and it wasn't a priority. Eventually the price decreased to $5.05 and it came home with the rest of the COMC 500.

I claimed a stack of Orlando/Miami/Memphis cards from Kerry (Cards on Cards) to boost my binder pages, but they haven't arrived yet. Until then here are some other Orlando cards of note:

I'm waiting to see what Victor Oladipo does next year before I move him to my star player box. The Elfrid Payton Gauntlet insert is in my 'hits' box. The black throwback jersey is neat (but I preferred the blue jersey shown in Hardaway's Collector's Choice cards.)

Here's another look at that all-black uniform on Steve Kerr. Wait..Steve Kerr? When did he play for Orlando? I don't remember that at all. I do remember Catledge though. This card fooled at least one of my friends into thinking they pulled a Shaq out of their paq. 

And finally some Orlando rookies, including a pair of J.J. Redick (the Chrome isn't a true "RC")

Orlando has had some other pro sports teams throughout the years.

Does anyone remember this fictional football team?

My last Sports Card Tour post featured the Oklahoma City Thunder...for this post we have the WLAF's Orlando Thunder.

You'll see more of these World League cards in future SCT posts. I used to have a bunch in my collection but only two or three have survived. This isn't one of them; I swiped the image from Trading Card Database.

Here's an Orlando card I'd like to own..particularly because of who is on the other side:

The Orlando (Sun) Rays were a minor-league affiliate of many teams including the Cubs and - not surprisingly - the Rays. I remember Peter Gammons suggesting that the then-Devil Rays merge with the Marlins and play at Walt Disney World as the Orlando Sun Rays.  I thought it was a good idea, but if the minor league O-Rays failed due to low attendance then the major league franchise wouldn't have fared much better.

Favorite Magic player (current): Don't have one

Favorite Magic player (all-time): Shaq

Next tour stop: Ottawa

Thanks for reading!



  1. I was 9 or 10 years old when the Shaq craze hit, and even though I never played organized basketball or collected basketball cards in my life previously I HAD to have a Shaq RC just like you described. I remember doing hours of yard work one Saturday to acquire the funds to pick up the Skybox RC from the display case at the local pharmacy down the street.

    I grabbed a copy of the Ultra RC a few years ago, it's one of problem less than 20 basketball cards in my entire collection today:

  2. It is hard to believe this fall will mark 26 years since Shaq burst onto the scene. Wow! It seems like just yesterday. I probably have one of his rookie cards in a box somewhere. I do have to say that I still have a handheld game featuring Shaq. He was defintely all the buzz when he entered the league.

  3. I absolutely love those old Rays uniforms.. I know I'm in the minority.

    I never really followed basketball. but Shaq was everywhere..

  4. Favorite Magic Players: Dennis Scott and Anfernee Hardaway

  5. My favorite magic players were shaq of course and penny hardaway. Seems like I was always finding penny in packs

  6. I know it's minor league, but Kerry Wood looks really weird as a Ray...

    1. I thought that was some kind of weird "imagine, if" card, but apparently the Cubs had a minor league team in 1997 with Rays logo and color.

    2. Yeah the Orlando Rays were a team before the Tampa Rays put a team on the field.. I believe Arizona had a minor league team in place the year before the parent team as well..

  7. I've been a fan of the Magic since I discovered the NBA. It's all about the jersey, that blue pinstripe one is one of my all time favorite jersey designs. The black and white ones are nice too. I find that whenever I come across a card of Penny Hardaway with the Magic it creates a heavy wave of nostalgia for when I first discovered the sport in 1996 and that brief time in my life where I was truly happy, before my health went bad on me the next year.