Joel Glass had the keepsakes in his backpack. One clear smoothie to-go cup filled with three ping-pong balls, one each from the three previous times the Orlando Magic won the NBA Draft Lottery. The Shaquille O’Neal draft. The Penny Hardaway draft (thanks to draft-and-trade including Chris Webber). The Dwight Howard draft.
He had the lucky charms, two blue and one white, and took them with him inside the room where the draft lottery actually happens — a timeless, technology-free spot where ping-pong balls shoot out of a clear drum to determine the draft order.
The Magic had a 14 percent chance to win the lottery after posting the second-worst record in the league this season. They have made six lottery picks since 2015, but never picked higher than fifth.
But as the numbers popped out in the lottery room at the McCormick Place Convention Center — the ones that would form the winning combination — their fortunes suddenly changed.
14. 1. 13. 6.
The Magic were now the proud owners of the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Glass, the team’s chief communications officer, barely moved when league lawyer Jamin Dershowitz announced that combination belonged to the Magic. The results came with more relief than joy for him.
Afterward, he sought to add another ping-pong ball to his collection, but at first, he was rebuffed by an NBA official. There was no denying Orlando’s great fortune.
“That’s what you earned tonight,” Jeff Weltman, Magic president of basketball operations, said, “You get to do what you want to do.”
Weltman will get to add a premium prospect to a young roster. Jalen Suggs, last year’s fifth pick, and Cole Anthony are in the backcourt, while Franz Wagner already looks like a key cog for the future. Mo Bamba, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac have murkier futures. Weltman will get to pick from a slew of talented bigs in Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith, the presumptive contenders for the top pick.
He may also have his head coach to thank for this good fortune. Jamahl Mosley felt lucky this morning, so he asked to switch places with Weltman on the dais to represent the franchise in public. While Glass watched from the back room, already knowing the prize was Orlando’s, Mosley did his part during the reveal.