We at Orlando Magic UK take a look back at legends that have worn the Pinstripes across the years since the team started playing in the NBA back in 1989.
In our second installment we focus on a key member of the ‘Heart and Hustle’ team and the only player to win the Most Improved and Sixth Man of the Year award.
As a member of the Magic joining the team late in the 94/95 season, we were thrilled to welcome Orlando Magic Hall of Famer Darrell Armstrong who was recently a guest on our 8th August 2021 episode of our podcast “Penny for your Thoughts”
Darrell was born in Gastonia, North Carolina on June 22, 1968. Armstrong attended Ashbrook High School of Gastonia and was a star American Football player playing both the Wide receiver and punter positions. Darrell as a Senior first started playing basketball before attending the Fayetteville State University.
During his college days Darrell played on the football team as a kicker and twice kicked school record 48 yard field goals during his time with the team. He did also play 3 seasons on the Fayetteville state basketball team under Jeff Capel where he excelled.
In 1990 Darrell was the CIAA Slam Dunk competition champion and averaged 16.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists during his senior year.
Armstrong took the long road of getting to the NBA, first he played in the United States Basketball League for the Atlanta Eagles, he then moved on to the Capital Region Pontiacs of the Continental Basketball Association before finishing the 1993 season with the South Georgia Blues of the Global Basketball Association.
His journey continued in Europe with spells at Pezoporkios Larnaca in Cyprus in 1993 where Darrell won player of the Year honours notching 32 points and 8 assists per contest.
Teams were starting to take note and his final stop in Europe was playing for Coren Ourense in the Spanish Liga ACB where he earned All Star honours.
Darrell got his break in the NBA late during the 1994/95 team appearing in three late games at the end of the season, whilst he only registered 8 minutes of action he did score 10 points including a superb one handed reverse windmill dunk.
The following season Darrell was able to log some more games (13) and got the benefit of playing and practicing alongside the like of Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant and Shaquille O’Neal when the Magic were a perennial contender for the NBA Championship.
The 1996/97 season saw Darrell average 15 minutes per game where he averaged a very respectable 6 points per game, as his role grew with the team over the course of the next few years his points per game rose to 9.2ppg in 1997/98.
In 1998/99 Armstrong won the NBA’s Sixth man in addition to the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, the first recipient of both awards in the same season.
His play off the bench (13.9ppg) in the lockout shortened 98/99 season saw the Magic finish third in the East before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs 3-1.
He followed this season by having his most productive season of his career scoring the basketball averaging 16.2ppg in a starting role on the ‘Heart and Hustle’ squad which finished with a 41-41 record.
The following season the Magic were able to add Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill to the roster, this resulted in Armstrong having less pressure on him to score the ball and he thrived in 2000/01 notching statistics of 15.9ppg, 4.6 rebounds and 7 assists per contest. Both the rebound and assist figures were career highs.
Armstrong played one more season in Orlando before stop offs in New Orleans, Dallas, Indiana and New Jersey before retiring from playing at the end of the 2007/08 season with career statistics of 9.2ppg, 2.7 rebounds and 4 assists in 23.7 minutes per game.
One of my favorite moments of Darrell’s career include the game winning steal and layup against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1998/99 season, this can be viewed below;
Additionally there was a moment in an encounter against the Denver Nuggets in 2002 when Tim Hardaway lost his cool after being ejected at a game in Orlando. Hardaway tossed a broadcasters monitor onto the court as he was being escorted to the locker room.
Darrell would then go and get the discarded monitor and plug it back in. The monitor was later signed by both Armstrong and Hardaway and auctioned off for charity,
In January of 2009 Armstrong was hired by the Dallas Mavericks to be an assistant coach focusing on player development and was part of the Mavericks coaching staff to win the NBA Finals in 2011.
Darrell continues to work as an Assistant Coach for the Dallas Mavericks under new Head Coach Jason Kidd.
We here at Orlando Magic UK consider Darrell an integral part of the roster during his 9 seasons with the Magic where he never played on a team that posted a losing record, whilst making the post season on seven occasions and missing out on the playoffs by half a game during the ‘Heart and Hustle’ season.
He is full deserving of his place in the ‘Magic Hall of Fame’ which he was inducted to on the 22nd February 2020 and is still a massive fan favourite to many Magic fans from all over the Globe!!