“That’s a sign that something is about to happen.” – Darrell Armstrong reflects on a wild night at Reunion Arena
On January 18, 2001 the Orlando Magic faced the Dallas Mavericks in a Thursday night game at Reunion Arena. Orlando held a 11 point lead with 1:46 remaining and a victory was firmly within reach. Over the next 90 seconds however, the Mavericks rallied and pulled within 6 points due to timely scoring by Dirk Nowitzki, Loy Vaught, and Hubert Davis. With 0:15 left in the game, Loy Vaught forced a jump ball against Darrell Armstrong and the Mavericks regained possession. Michael Finley banked in a 30 footer to trim the deficit to 3 points with 8 seconds remaining.
The Magic were still in an ideal position to win the game. If they could just inbound the ball to Darrell Armstrong, a 90% free throw shooter, and force the Mavericks to intentionally foul him, he could easily make one or both free throws to guarantee a win for Orlando. The Magic got the ball to Armstrong, who stepped up to the line and shockingly missed both free throws.
“I missed the first one, and missed the second one. I’m stunned. I’m shocked. One thing about that is, that’s a sign that something is about to happen,” said Armstrong while looking back on the night. Evidently, Armstrong was right.
The Mavericks rebounded the miss and promptly called a timeout. Michael Finley inbounded the ball to Dirk Nowitzki, who immediately handed it right back to Finley. Finley, with Bo Outlaw guarding him, launched a fadeaway three at the buzzer that rattled into basket, sending Reunion into a frenzy and the Mavericks into overtime. The Mavericks controlled the extra session from start to to finish and ended up winning the game 115-106.
This game has become something that certain individuals jokingly give D.A. a hard time about from time to time.
“I got to hear it from Dirk all the time. Dirk reminds me of that night. He says they came out of the huddle and they said ‘Do not foul Darrell Armstrong. Don’t let Darrell Armstrong get the ball,’ ” says Armstrong.
While this game is certainly one to forget for Armstrong, he had a highly successful 14 year career in the NBA. During our conversation, D.A. looked back on his basketball journey – discussing everything from his time in the minor leagues, to working in a yarn factory, to finally latching on with the Orlando Magic in the 1994/1995 NBA season.
Armstrong played an important role on some exciting Orlando teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, even winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year in the same season (1999), becoming the first and only player to ever accomplish that feat.
After getting traded to Dallas early in the 2004/2005 season, Armstrong served as an important veteran presence for a Mavericks team in the post Steve Nash era while contributing to the squad that advanced all the way to the 2006 NBA Finals.
Prior to the 2008-2009 NBA Season, Armstrong was brought on to the team as an assistant coach on Rick Carlisle’s staff, a position he still holds to this day. Despite not winning an NBA championship with the Mavericks as a player in 2006, Armstrong finally became an NBA Champion as a coach in 2011.
Thanks for listening, I hope you enjoy the episode.
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