Shaquille O’Neal. Penny Hardaway. Tracy McGrady. Nick Anderson.
And now, Darrell Armstrong.
“That’s great company,” Armstrong said on Tuesday, shortly after it was announced that he will be inducted to the Orlando Magic’s hall of fame, joining the aforementioned quartet as the only players in that franchise’s equivalent of a ring of honor.
Armstrong, an assistant on coach Rick Carlisle’s staff who also played for the Mavericks on the team’s 2006 run to the NBA finals, remains one of the most beloved players in Orlando’s history after making the team as a hustling, undrafted point guard in the 1994-95 season.
He played nine seasons for the Magic and was best known for his quick, scrappy style, taking charges and unbridled hustle.
“To be in company with those guys is incredible,” Armstrong said. “All I wanted to do was play, and play hard. And come to find out, I did much better than just playing.”
Armstrong played with all four of the other players who are in the Magic’s hall, but one of his proudest moments with the franchise came when all four of those players had either retired or moved on to other teams.
In 1999-2000, Armstrong led the Magic in scoring (16.2 points) and assists (6.1) and they went 41-41 after most experts had them pegged for less than 20 wins before the season began.
“I took a franchise when we lost not only Shaq, we lost Penny, and no one really thought we were going to have a great year that year,” Armstrong said. “And we missed the playoff by one game. It was definitely a special year.
“We were known for the heart and hustle. People always talk about that heart and hustle team. I’m in the NBA coaching. Monty Williams was on that team and he’s a head coach with Phoenix. Ben Wallace, NBA champion, he was on there. And Doc Rivers was the heart and hustle coach at the time and he ended up getting coach of the year. That was our team.”
In his nine seasons with the Magic, Armstrong averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 assists. But it was the way he played the game that made him a favorite of fans and the franchise.
Armstrong will be the ninth member of the Magic’s hall of fame. The players he joins indeed had legendary careers. O’Neal, McGrady and Hardaway made multiple all-star appearances. Anderson was the Magic’s first draft pick in franchise history and helped lead them to the NBA finals in 1995.
The other members in the hall are co-founder Pat Williams, the late Rich DeVos, who was owner of the team, executive Jimmy Hewitt and longtime announcer David Steele.
“I’m just proud to be part of a great tradition down there, guys who came through there who put their foot down and made a lot of difference playing basketball,” he said.
Armstrong will be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame during a ceremony Feb. 21 at Amway Center. He also will be honored that night when the Magic take on the Dallas Mavericks.
He is a former winner of the NBA’s Community Assist Award (monthly), the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and the NBA’s Sixth Man Award plus numerous other honors.