Last week, The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick reported that the NBA was in serious talks with Disney about Walt Disney World Resort, which is now seen as the most likely destination to become the league’s return-to-play site at some point this summer. The proposal, it seems, would slate NBA players and team personnel to arrive in Orlando at some point in mid June, with an eye toward a return to competition sometime in mid July. Of course, great lengths will have to be taken to ensure that the players, coaches, staff and media are tested and protected as the league grapples with a new normal in an effort to bring a conclusion to the season that was suspended on March 12 due to COVID-19.
Charania followed up that report with another, detailing a number of proposals that were outlined in an NBA-issued GM survey designed to gauge the preferences of how the teams prefer to actually return to play.
Regardless of how exactly a resumption occurs, it seems that if there is one, it will take place in Orlando. Walt Disney World Resort, of course, is a private property, and would allow the league more of an air-tight incubation space against coronavirus that sites like the Las Vegas strip simply couldn’t offer as easily.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne added further detail when she reported that exploratory conversations between the league and Disney were ongoing, and the two sides were in negotiations about the potential of the games being played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
The Sixers, of course, have no record of playing official games at the Wide World of Sports Complex, but they have a long history of facing off versus the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how our beloved Sixers have fared in recent years, in Orlando. It’s not pretty.
Some context: The Magic was first established as an expansion franchise in 1989.
Overall, when facing the Magic in Orlando in the regular season, the Sixers are 14-45.
Hard to say for sure, but that sounds bad.
In the playoffs, the two teams first faced off in 1998-99. During their first round series, the 6-seed Sixers upset the 3-seed Magic, 3 games to 1 in a best of five. In Orlando, the teams split the two games played at the then-titled Orlando Arena in May.
The teams met again in the postseason following the 2008-09 season. There, the Magic exacted revenge, as the 3-seed Magic defeated the 6-seed Sixers in six games. In Orlando, Andre Miller’s Sixers won once, as Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat’s Magic won twice. Later that spring, the Magic would go on to compete in the NBA Finals.
On the other hand, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find an interesting footnote to the 2014 NBA season. In the summer preceding the season, Sam Hinkie’s Sixers competed in both the Orlando and the Las Vegas summer leagues. On July 11, 2014, the Sixers won the Orlando Summer League championship, by defeating the Memphis Grizzlies, 91-75. It wasn’t even close.
Hollis Thompson had 21 points.
Ronald Roberts Jr. had 11 rebounds.
Casper Ware had 7 assists.
These are real names.
That 2014 Sixers Orlando Summer League championship team will walk together forever. Their championship trophy (ribbon?) will adorn the Wells Fargo Center bathroom outside section 127 long after we’re all dead and gone.
So, this summer, if the Sixers should head to Orlando to quarantine and resume the 2019-20 season, they need not remember the lessons of their regular season ineptitude in Florida. What they need to do is to, somehow, some way, conjure up the spirit that Hollis, Ronald, and Casper played with, some six years ago. Then — and only then — can the Sixers be redeemed in Orlando.