20 July 2007

The Face on the Milk Carton Series: Rony Seikaly

When Darko Milicic left Orlando for Memphis last week, he became my second-favorite enigmatic, European-born big man who spent fewer than two seasons with the Magic. My favorite by a wide margin is the oft-forgotten Rony Seikaly, who spent the 1996/1997 season and part of 1997/1998 with the Magic.

Rony Seikaly and his ex-wife, the supermodel Elsa Benitez, sit courtside at an unidentified basketball game.
Photo by Brian Bahr, Getty Images

We in Orlando have been spoiled with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, two cornerstone-quality centers, both of whom were selected first overall in their respective drafts. Given the greatness of those two players, it's easy to forget that Seikaly is the third-best center in the Magic's eighteen-year history. During his Magic career, he had per-game averages of 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Solid numbers, especially when one considers his .483 field goal percentage.

What endeared Seikaly to me, and to other Magic fans, was his intensity, which sometimes manifested itself in boneheaded plays. I had great lower-bowl seats for a 1997 game in which Rony Seikaly and Bo Outlaw grabbed a defensive rebound at the same time and swung their arms wildly in an epic attempt to gain possession of the ball. I don't know if it was Bo's goggles getting fogged-up, Rony's long hair obscuring his vision, or both that caused the mishap, but they ended up swinging so forcefully that they stumbled out-of-bounds with the ball in-hand: a turnover borne of passion. Stupid? Probably. Fun to watch? Absolutely.

Rony's career with the Magic came to an abrupt and disharmonious end on February 16th, 1998, when he was traded to the Utah Jazz for Greg Foster and Chris Morris. The trade fell through on February 18th when Seikaly didn't report to Utah, forcing the Magic to trade him again. That night, I experienced the pain of watching my favorite basketball player standing, disheveled and alone, in the Magic's locker-room tunnel, realizing that he would never wear Magic pinstripes again. The next day, the Magic shipped Seikaly and Brian Evans to the New Jersey Nets for -- can you believe this? -- David Benoit, Yinka FREAKING Dare, and Kevin Edwards. Dare was waived three days later, while Benoit and Edwards played sparingly; they were not retained the following offseason.

Seikaly's career ended with the Nets, for whom he played only 18 games before retiring. Since then, he's hosted golf tournaments to benefit cystic fibrosis research. And as recently as April of this year, he tried his luck at professional beach volleyball. In addition, his jersey at Syracuse University has been retired.

Photo by Syracuse University Athletics

What, me worry about Darko? I'm more concerned with properly honoring one of the fifteen best players in Magic history, the one who also meant the most to me.

A huge shout-out to the fansite MagicPride, from which I got the Magic's February-18th opponent and Seikaly's statistics.


Ty Keenan said...

I intensely dislike Rony Seikaly. One of my least favorite Warriors, although I'm sure that has something to do with the circumstances behind our acquiring him.

Ben Q. Rock said...

The Heat's website shows that you traded away Billy Owens and the rights to Sasha Danilovic for Seikaly. I was too busy playing with Batman: The Animated Series action figures to know who those players are. Was that an incredibly one-sided deal in the Heat's favor?

Ty Keenan said...

Actually, I thought he was in the Tim Hardaway trade for some reason, but it turns out not. I dislike Billy Owens, too--he's the one we got in the Mitch Richmond trade. Lot of bad feelings surrounding mid/late 90s Warriors, obviously.