Jameer Nelson’s Lasting Impact In Orlando
‘ALL EYES ON ME’
Body art is one of the boldest mediums for self-expression. Jameer Nelson’s sculpted arms are covered with meaningful tattoos. But the one that arcs across his back in capital letters may be the surest way to capture his mindset, spirit, and his lasting impact with the Orlando Magic.
Jameer Nelson’s tremendous collegiate career at St. Joseph’s was capped by a senior season in which he led the Hawks to a 30-2 record and claimed the Wooden Award, Naismith Award, Bob Cousy Award, Rupp Trophy and Oscar Robertson Trophy. There was something undeniable about the way Jameer could impact a game and will his team to victory, yet NBA teams are generally wary of drafting an undersized point guard when measuring without shoes, standing reaches and gargantuan wingspans tend to rule the day.
The Magic saw the intangible traits Nelson possessed and pounced, by trading a future 1st round selection (Julius Hodge) to obtain Nelson from the Denver Nuggets who drafted him 20th overall in the 2004 NBA draft.
Orlando struck gold, acquiring a franchise cornerstone that while generously listed at 6-feet, has a heart and magnitude of determination that could never properly be quantified.
It was never easy, Jameer had to beat out the talented but mercurial Steve Francis to win his starting spot. Soon, Carlos Arroyo and later Rafer Alston would challenge his position, but Nelson always found a way to win out. Often, it wasn’t pretty, as he suffered nearly every injury imaginable from concussions to foot sprains. The great Keanu Reeves, as Conor O’Neill, may have put it best when he said in the unheralded film Hard Ball, “What I’ve learned from you is that really one of the most important things in life is showing up. I’m blown away by your ability to show up through everything that’s gone on.” Look at every single top Magic moment from the last 10 seasons, and Nelson is guaranteed to be in the picture. Jameer showed up. He came to work day after day, when he was tired, sick, grieving, injured. Even when every single teammate that he had ever played with prior to the 2012 season had gone their separate ways, Nelson showed up.
His loyalty and his will propelled him into fan’s hearts as well as the team’s record books. Nelson leaves as the all-time leader in assists (3,501), second all-time in games played (651), third in 3-points made (874) and fourth in total points (8, 184).
You can choose to remember Jameer for any one of his many great on-court exploits (2009 All-Star campaign, 2010 Playoff explosion, Clutch Game-Winners), but I will remember him for being a consummate professional. As a man who earns and keeps the respect of everyone with whom he comes in contact. Nelson could not have done anymore for the Orlando Magic organization. Now it’s time for Nelson to show up in a new place, with a new team, but his legacy will always be present in Orlando.
Spenser Strode is a basketball connoisseur and a contributing member to MBO.