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Mike Bianchi: Jimmy 'Bubba' Hewitt, Orlando Magic co-founder who died Sunday, gave us pro sports

By Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

"He was my oak and my mentor," said Ben, a successful businessman in his own right. "He was great in the boardroom, but he was even better as a dad."

Remembers Whitney: "He used to tell us when we were growing up, 'You're going to knock it from here to Bumby Street!' I always just thought that was a common phrase that everybody used, but then I found out my dad grew up a few blocks from Bumby Street (in downtown Orlando). If you knocked a baseball to Bumby Street, that meant you were having a good day. So we grew up trying to do everything from here to Bumby Street.

"My father always had an optimism override button. He taught us if you're going to live, live big. If you're going to go after something, go after it hard."

Which is exactly what Jimmy Hewitt did when he found out the NBA was considering expanding into the state of Florida. He went after it with the determination of Michael Jordan taking it to the hole.

I once visited his office on Edgewater Drive and it was filled with Magic memorabilia. Behind his desk was a painting by famed sports artist LeRoy Neiman showing Jordan going up against the inaugural Magic team. On an adjoining wall was a framed keepsake of all of the game tickets from the first season. On top of a cabinet sat a signed game ball from the Magic's very first game.

"Wonderful memories," Hewitt told me then. "I give thanks every day for the wonderful memories."

 

Without Hewitt those memories wouldn't exist.

"Jimmy Hewitt is the reason the Magic and professional sports exist in Orlando," Magic CEO Alex Martins said. "It was Jimmy's belief, perseverance, community spirit and vision that ... brought NBA basketball to Orlando and Central Florida. He is truly the founding father of the Orlando Magic and for that we will be eternally grateful. He was like a father to all Magic fans and we will miss him dearly."

Said fellow co-founder Pat Williams when Hewitt was inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame a few years ago: "Without Jimmy Hewitt, there would be no Orlando Magic."

Hewitt met and became fast friends with Williams, then the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, at a faith-based men's retreat in San Antonio in 1984. A year later, there was a similar conference in Orlando and Hewitt and another friend gave Williams a ride to the airport.

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