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COMMENTARY

Magic seeks veto power on the NBA nation

Orlando is everyone's underdog, including President Obama's, but a championship would validate the franchise.

June 05, 2009|Mike Bianchi

President Obama believes in many unbelievable phenomena.

He believes General Motors will rise again from the depths of bankruptcy.

He believes Muslim and Arab nations will someday embrace America and vice versa.

He believes we can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil in 10 years.

He believes Republicans and Democrats can actually set aside their partisanship and work in unity to bring our nation back from the depths of war and recession.

Yes, our president believes in many incredible things.

He just doesn't believe in Magic.

The Orlando Magic.

"The Lakers in six," Obama told reporters before boarding a plane for the Middle East earlier this week.

Perfect.

Just what the Magic needs in its unheralded, unsaluted playoff march through the Who's Who in the NBA. Not even the leader of the free world -- a young man who came from nowhere to defeat established political machines such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain -- believes in a team built in his own underdog image. He doesn't believe a young, up-and-coming Magic team that has already vanquished established NBA machines such as the deified Boston Celtics and glorified LeBron James can take down Kobe and the legendary Lakers.

"I know what's going on with our economy and overseas," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said before tipoff of Game 1 Thursday night. "I hope President Obama has got a lot more important things to be concerned about. I hope he's not spending too much time thinking about the NBA Finals."

If you're scoring at home, Obama has a perfect 2-0 record in presidentially prognosticating major sporting events. He picked the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl and North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball tournament. Then again, the Celtics were a perfect 32-0 when leading a playoff series 3-2 -- until the Magic took care of their unblemished record.

The presidential veto of its championship chances is nothing new to the Magic. The players have been the dirty-faced little kids of these playoffs since Day 1. The Vitaminwater ad told us Kobe and LeBron were on "a collision course" for the Finals. The Nike puppets made it seem that way too.

Remember what Van Gundy said during the Eastern Conference finals: "I don't even think most of the nation knows we're in this series. I think this is the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James series and who they're playing against is incidental."

Has anything really changed since the Magic defeated the Cavaliers? LeBron didn't even have the common courtesy to shake hands and congratulate the Magic after the Eastern Conference finals.

Orlando resident Shaquille O'Neal, even after the Magic helped him acquire courtside seats for a monumental home game against Cleveland last week, rubbed the Magic's nose in it by tweeting on Twitter earlier this week that he's rooting for Kobe and the Lakers.

And, yes, once again, nearly all of the ESPN analysts are picking Kobe and the Lakers to win the title.

"We've always been overlooked," Magic star Dwight Howard said as his team prepared for Game 1. "We were overlooked in the first series against Philly, we were overlooked against Boston, were overlooked against the Cavaliers, and we're still overlooked. So we understand that.

"We don't want to be a team that everybody picks to win. Everybody picking against us, it motivates us. It drives us to do something greater."

Beating the dynastic defending champion Celtics in Game 7 in Boston wasn't enough. Beating the league's winningest team, the Cleveland LeBrons, in six wasn't enough.

It seems the only way the Magic will make believers of anybody is if it takes down the Lala Land Lakers, the glitziest, most glamorous team in the league, and brings the title back home.

It should be noted that Obama made a conciliatory speech to Muslim nations around the world Thursday.

If Orlando somehow pulls off this championship, the president might need to make a concession speech to Magic Nation as well.

--

mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com

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