NBA Rivalries: Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic

When the Miami Heat meets the Orlando Magic, both teams are out for state supremacy. In representing the major Floridian cities of Miami and Orlando, this is a rivalry that is both hotly contested and regionally based. It may be surprising that the teams have only contested the Playoffs once, all the way back in 1997. To find out if it might happen again or just for the latest Miami Heat odds, check out our dedicated sportsbook. 

The Background To The Heat-Magic Rivalry

The rivalry between the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic began in earnest in the Nineties. While attention may have been drawn toward Michael Jordan and the dominance of the Chicago Bulls, even the Lakers, eyes were diverted in the East to these two major franchises. Both teams were regularly featured amongst the very best in the Eastern Conference with the games between the two increasing in physicality and intensity. 

Player Announcements

You can expect the games between the two teams to be eagerly anticipated yet player announcements have already stoked up the fire. That includes the Miami Heat announcing the signing of Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 after he had spent the mid-Nineties at the Orlando Magic. It may not even be a player switching allegiances to a Florida city rival, it could simply be an announcement that dominates the local press. 

In the 2010 off-season, the Heat announced the signing of LeBron James, and headlines were made about it pretty much every day. Little was made of whoever it was the Orlando Magic had signed, such was the intense attention paid to that single signing. Not only did the Orlando Magic feel slighted by the sheer volume of attention paid to the Miami Heat, but most of the teams in the NBA could not compete with the news. 

Of course, Stan Van Gundy, Magic head coach at the time could not fail to notice the press attention that the Heat were enjoying that off-season. He even stated that he was ‘surprised’ that there was any media left to visit the Magic as ESPN was ‘all Heat, all of the time’. Such sensational signings are worth paying attention to, as are the latest NBA betting lines which you can see on our website. 

The 1997 Playoffs

As both the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic have a strong rivalry, neither team has a particularly impressive playoff record. That does mean that when the two teams meet, you can expect it to dominate sports chat in Florida. There is a sense of regional pride at stake but also the competitive Floridian streak even though the two franchises are around 235 miles apart. Alas, that rivalry barely happens postseason as neither team has regularly held the top spot in the NBA, let alone at the same time. 

Though the Miami Heat has only met the Orlando Magic once in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, it was a memorable contest. The series went the full distance with the Miami Heat eventually triumphing 3-2 though it was perhaps better known for the 40+ points haul of Penny Hardaway. The Miami Heat showed their teeth in the first two games at Miami Arena, winning 99-64 and then 104-87.

Few expected the Orlando Magic to come back yet on their home court they did just that. This is where Penny Hardaway came into his own, scoring 42 points in an 88-75 win to bring it back to 2-1. The series was leveled at 2-2 when Hardaway scored 41 points in a 99-91 win. Going back to Miami, Hardaway still scored 33 points but it failed to be decisive with the Heat winning the series 3-2 with a 91-83 win. 

Even though Miami did prevail, Penny Hardaway went down in history when he helped level the series. These were two of the most impressive individual performances in playoff games in Magic history as he pulled off two 40-point performances back-to-back. Unfortunately for Hardaway and Magic, the Heat was the better team over the series and deservedly won that decisive fifth game.    


The rivalry between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat is better known as the Sunshine State rivalry. Both teams are located in major cities in Florida and dominate the state when it comes to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division. However, if you were to ask fans of either team who their biggest rivals were it’s doubtful you could find consistency in their responses. 

For fans of the Orlando Magic, their biggest rivals are likely to be the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. You could also count the Chicago Bulls as Magic would be the only team to interrupt their Nineties’ dominance from 1991 all the way to 1998. Alternatively, fans of the Miami Heat would likely list the Orlando Magic as one of their biggest rivals yet you could also include the Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, and the Indiana Pacers. Then there is the historic rivalry that comes with the New York Knicks due to the four playoff meetings between the years of 1997 and 2000. 

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