The Orlando Magic have been dawning the NBA dunce cap for longer than I can remember. It’s been nearly a decade since they last made a worthwhile NBA Playoff run. And even then, their three-point barrage of a 2009 Finals team—anchored by Human Casper Mattress Dwight Howard—didn’t exactly inspire dynasty talk, as they succumbed to the Lakers in five games, giving Kobe Bryant his fourth ring in the process.
To truly reminisce on Magic lore, one must reach back to the ‘90s—to the fabled days of painstakingly young upstarts breaking backboards and conquering Jordan. Those were the polarizing teams capable of spawning 30 for 30s and perpetual debates over what could have been had fate not ended the party early.
It makes sense then, that Orlando would choose to bring their most magnetic, captivating icon from said decade as a token of good luck to tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery. No—not Shaq, nor Penny Hardaway, nor the Golden Goggle God himself, Horace Grant.
At last, Magic Co-Founder Pat Williams will be escorting Lil’ Penny to tonight’s festivities, the Chris Rock-voiced action doll and star of one of Nike’s most successful ad campaigns ever. The idea is that a little nostalgia might help capture the franchise’s next big thing. As Williams puts it, per ESPN:
"It's our version of a lucky penny. We've tried everything in the past: lucky coins, four-leaf clovers, rabbit's feet, Lucky Charms cereal. We've taken everything up there."
Can’t blame him. But before I go asking Williams how he dug the foul-mouthed figurine out my mom’s garage, let’s take a look back at the times Lil’ Penny captured both our hearts and devotion in preparation for tonight’s appearance.