By John Denton
Oct. 19, 2017
NEW YORK – Jonathan Isaac scored his first NBA points just 13 seconds into his debut, he emphatically swatted two shots and he had a highlight-worthy put-back dunk to give the Orlando Magic their biggest lead of the night on the Miami Heat.
None of that, however, had a thing to do with what ultimately made Isaac’s NBA debut truly epic.
Amped up and excited all day about the chance to live out a childhood dream and play in the NBA, Isaac mistakenly forgot to put his white, No. 1 Magic jersey before his first official pro game. Unknowingly, Isaac didn’t wear his jersey under his team-issued warm-up jacket before heading out to the Amway Center floor for warmups and pregame introductions.
Magic Director of Team Operations Rodney “Sid’’ Powell noticed Isaac’s jersey hanging in his dressing stall during a routine sweep of the locker room prior to tipoff. Powell brought the jersey out to the court as the game was about to tip off, but several veteran Magic players convinced him to hold onto it until the excitable 20-year-old Isaac realized he was missing it. What a great chance to teach the rookie a lesson in his first game, they thought.
Isaac’s moment of jersey reckoning came with approximately 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter as the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft readied himself to enter the game. Luckily for him, he came to the realization that he was without his jersey just before walking to the scorer’s table to check in and stripping off his warm-up to expose only the dri-fit undershirt.
“I didn’t even put my jersey on. I was on the bench and I had completely forgotten my jersey and luckily Sid had (already) gotten it for me,’’ Isaac said after Orlando’s 116-109 defeat of Miami in his first game. “I didn’t even put (the jersey) on. I got it on the bench with like 5 minutes left in the first quarter. It was just sitting right here (in his locker).’’
Isaac didn’t let the fashion faux pas faze him as he went out and had a major impact on the game. His four points came on two hustling put-back plays and the 6-foot-10 forward with the 7-foot wingspan added eight rebounds and the two blocked shots. His finest moment came in the fourth quarter when he dived on the floor to bat a loose ball to teammate Bismack Biyombo. From there, he sprang up off the floor quickly and followed up a missed shot by D.J. Augustin to give Orlando a 97-80 lead with 9:58 to play.
“It did start to slow down for me as the game went along,’’ said Isaac, who played nearly 17 minutes. “(On the put-back dunk), I just saw that as an opportunity. I saw it come off (the rim) and I went for it. … It was just about making winning plays, focusing on defense and focusing on getting stops. I had a couple of defensive letdowns early and they talked to me about it and I just had to get back out there and play.’’
All of it – the playing, the forgetting the jersey and the dunking – made for an epic NBA debut for Isaac. For years, he couldn’t wait for this night to get here and it proved to be the kind of memorable night that he won’t soon forget – missing jersey and all.
“It was exciting – just as exciting as I thought it was going to be,’’ Isaac said with a wide smile. “And it was just as nerve-wracking as I thought it was going to be. Definitely, all of that stuff.’’
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