Orlando Magic fans didn’t celebrate a home victory on Friday night; instead, they celebrated the career of fan favorite Darrell Armstrong before the hosts’ 122-106 defeat to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
Armstrong cried several times during his induction ceremony into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.
“This means the world to me,” he said in Orlando. “I’ve always been proud and honored to represent the Magic.”
Armstrong appeared in 502 regular-season games for the Magic from 1995-2003, the first nine seasons of his 14-season NBA career.
In 1998-99, he claimed the NBA’s Most Improved Player award recipient and Sixth Man Award.
What’s more, Darrell Armstrong holds this distinction: The first player to nab both awards in the same season.
“He’s the greatest underdog story in Magic history and one of the greatest in NBA history,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said.
When this season tipped off in October, Darrell Armstrong was second in franchise history in steals, No. 3 in assists, No. 6 in 3-pointers and 10th in points.
In the spotlight
In a statement issued in the days before the induction, Armstrong reflected on what it means to him.
“It is an honor to be recognized for the things I did in Orlando, and I am especially proud as a player who wasn’t drafted,” Armstrong stated.
“I am not only excited that the organization is rewarding me, but I am also thankful to the fans there as well. Magic fans always had my back and supported me. It is a great honor and I share this with them.”
Martins praised Armstrong for the profound impact he made during his Magic years.
“During his nine seasons with the Orlando Magic, Darrell Armstrong gave everything he had to the organization, both on the court and in our community,” Martins said in a news release before Armstrong’s induction day. “Fans always look back fondly at our ‘Heart & Hustle’ era, and Darrell was the leader of that group that left it all on the court 20 years ago. We are thrilled to induct him into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.”
Honoring Darrell Armstrong
A former Fayetteville State guard, whose basketball journey included playing in the Global Basketball League, the Continental Basketball Association and USBL along with teams in Spain and Cyprus, Armstrong is the ninth individual to be inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.
The others are: Magic co-founder Pat Williams, Nick Anderson, Shaquille O’Neal, late owner Rich DeVos, Penny Hardaway, co-founder Jimmy Hewitt, Tracy McGrady and announcer David Steele.
Crediting his mentors
Armstrong went undrafted in 1991 and took the road less traveled to reach the NBA.
As reported by The Dallas Morning News, “Armstrong thanked all of his coaches by name, breaking into tears when he spoke of two late mentors, former Orlando coach Chuck Daly and Jeff Capel II, who coached Armstrong at Fayetteville State.”
“Jeff Capel was the only person who ever said I probably could play on the next level,” Armstrong told the newspaper. “He gave me a shooting drill, and I did it every day. He told me it was on me.”
Darrell Armstrong has been a Dallas Mavericks assistant coach since 2009.
It’s a good fit for him, enabling him to pursue one of his passions: staying involved in the game.
“I just like being around this game,” Armstrong told the Gaston (North Carolina) Gazette in 2012. “For me, when my career was over, I jumped right into it. I still enjoy getting up in the morning and have excitement coming into the office and into the practice court. I’m wired up and ready to go. That’s how it should be.”
The last word
“I’m honored, I’m proud,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been waiting for this day — I’m not going to sit here and lie to you — because I know I left my heart and soul out here on that floor for the fans.”