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

Hewitt sat in the front seat with John Tolson, a local minister. Williams was in the back talking about how the NBA was planning to expand. Out of curiosity, Williams asked what part of Florida would be the best location for a potential NBA franchise — "Miami, Tampa or Jacksonville?"

Hewitt turned around and gave Williams a steely, stern look.

"He was really, really insulted," Williams remembered.

That's when Hewitt uttered the six Magical words of Central Florida pride and passion:

"Orlando is the place to be."

He and Tolson then began explaining to Williams all the reasons — growth projections, average income, favorable demographics — why Orlando should be awarded a franchise.


"But you don't even have an arena," Williams said.

"We're building one," Hewitt informed him.

Williams' interest was suddenly piqued. From there, a series of fortunate events began to unfold. It started the very next day when Hewitt drove to Lake Highland Prep to pick up his son Ben at soccer practice. Coincidentally, then-Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick was picking up his son, too.

Hewitt rushed over to Frederick's car, eagerly explained his NBA idea and asked if Frederick could pull some political strings to get the proposed arena built faster than planned. Frederick agreed and set the civic wheels in motion.


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