Saturday is a momentous day in the history of the NBA and the Orlando Magic, as on June 24th, 1992, they drafted one of the most famous players in league history in Shaquille O’Neal. He turned the Magic into a worldwide known entity. led them to the NBA Finals in 1995, but then, fled to the Lakers in free agency in 1996.
Shaq and Kobe Bryant returned L.A. to title town winning three titles in a row in the early 2000’s. But, he will always be know synonymous with putting Orlando on the map.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 24, 2017
So, in honor of Shaq and the Magic’s anniversary, we decided to take a quick look at the #1 overall picks of all the state teams in Florida in the big four professional sports over the last quarter century. It’s filled with names you will know, like Jameis Winston, and with some you likely won’t.
But here goes:
The Magic actually had the #1 overall pick the following year of 1993 and famously took Chris Webber and then traded him to the Golden State Warriors for the third pick, Penny Hardaway, and three future #1’s. Hardaway became an All-NBA caliber player in the 90’s and helped Orlando get to the cusp of the title in 1995. It still is remembered as one of the wildest draft night deals ever.
Orlando also had the #1 overall pick in 2004 and took Dwight Howard out of an Atlanta high school. An eight time All Star and five time 1st team All NBA player, Howard helped the Magic to the ’09 Finals, where they lost again. He eventually, followed Shaq’s lead and went to the Lakers seeking to win a title. It did not happen there, and he has since been on three more teams with a nomadic existence towards the end of his career.
Onto Major League Baseball, where the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays took high school outfielder Josh Hamilton with the 1999 #1 overall selection. But, Hamilton’s well known drug and alcohol issues at a young age ruined his early career and he was no factor in Tampa Bay. He’s gone on to play for several more teams.
The following year, 2000, the then Florida Marlins took then high school first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez with the first pick the draft. “A-Gone” as he’s known, has now played for the Padres, Rangers, Red Sox and currently Dodgers. He’s been a five time All Star, four time Gold Glove winner, and has been part of numerous playoff runs, but hasn’t won a title.
The Rays have had the #1 overall three more times in the 2000’s: high school outfielder Delmon Young in 2003, Vanderbilt star pitcher David Price in 2008, and high school shortstop Tim Beckham the following year, 2009. Of the three, Price has been the best, as a five time All Star, and the 2012 Cy Young award winner. But, was also traded a couple of times, playing for the the Tigers and Blue Jays. Then he signed a huge $200 million free agent deal with the Red Sox.
Next is the NHL, where there have also been a couple of interesting #1 overall picks by either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Florida Panthers in the last 25 years.
The Panthers took junior hockey defenseman Ed Jovanovski with the first overall pick in 1994 and he help lead Florida to the Stanley Cup Finals against Colorado two years later. He’s played for Vancouver, Phoenix and the Panthers again, and also won a hockey gold medal in 2002 Winter Games for Team Canada.
The Lightning took 18 year old junior hockey star Vincent LeCavalier in 1998 and he eventually led them as team captain to the Stanley Cup title in 2004 and hockey immortality. LeCavalier moved on later in his career to the Flyers and the L.A. Kings before recently retiring.
And that leaves us with what we (and presumably you) care about the most, football. And specifically, the NFL teams in Florida and the recent history of #1 overall selections since 1992.
There have actually only been two of them. The Miami Dolphins took Michigan tackle Jake Long in the 2008 draft to solidify their offensive line. He did so, going to four Pro Bowls and helped the Dolphins get back to respectability. We wrote about Long battling injuries recently and finally, calling it a career this off season.
And that brings us to the only other time in the last 25 years that a Florida NFL team picked #1. That is of course, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their selection of Jameis Winston first in 2015 (see above).
The former Heisman winner out of Florida State was a somewhat controversial pick after a sexual assault allegation at Florida State. The Bucs were also entertaining the possibility of taking Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, but now have arguably, their leader for the next decade or so, in Winston on team that already improved to 9-7 in Winston’s second year.
There will be huge expectation on Winston for 2017 and not unlike previous #1 overall QB’s like Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and more recently, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, there is a different kind of scrutiny, when you are tabbed “the best player in this year’s draft.”
Some of the above in the last 25 years have lived up to it. Some have not. It’s Winston’s stage now.