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A Player With An Extra Kick Magic guard Darrell Armstrong can nail threes with his arm or his foot

Magic Guard Darrell Armstrong has to be the only NBA player
whose biggest three-pointers in college came off the basketball
court. As a walk-on kicker for Division II Fayetteville (N.C.)
State in 1989, he twice booted school-record 48-yard field
goals. "That was a big thrill," Armstrong says. "A lot of people
didn't think I could kick it that far."

Armstrong has made a career of proving skeptics wrong. Before
signing with the Magic as a free agent in '95, he spent four
years toiling in the Global Basketball Association, the USBL,
the CBA and pro leagues in Cyprus and Spain. Few 6'1" players
make it from those basketball backwaters to the NBA. But then
few work as hard as Armstrong does. He dives for loose balls,
takes charges and plays like a hoops version of a special teams
kamikaze. "He's a spark plug," Orlando All-Star guard Penny
Hardaway says. "When he's in the game, good things happen."
Indeed, Armstrong is a big reason the surprising Magic led the
Atlantic Division at week's end. On Sunday he had 19 points,
eight assists and three rebounds in just 25 minutes as Orlando
beat Houston to improve to 8-2.

Although he grew up in the heart of basketball country, in
Gastonia, N.C., Armstrong always preferred football to hoops. A
punter and part-time receiver for Ashbrook High, he didn't even
play basketball until his senior year and didn't dream of the
NBA until several years after he made the basketball team at
nearby Fayetteville State. There, under the tutelage of coach
Jeff Capel (now at Old Dominion), he became a first-team black
college All-America. After being passed over in the '91 NBA
draft, Armstrong went on an odyssey through basketball's
alphabet-soup leagues before being signed by Orlando. Armstrong
got his big break when injuries depleted the Magic before its
first-round playoff series with the Heat in '97. Thrust into the
starting point-guard slot--Hardaway shifted over to shooting
guard--Armstrong averaged 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4
assists as the Magic stretched the heavily favored Heat to five

Armstrong got off to a strong start last year, averaging 9.2
points, 4.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds before a torn right rotator
cuff ended his season after 48 games. In the off-season the
Magic signed him to a five-year, $18 million contract, but
Armstrong sometimes wonders if he could kick in the NFL. He
keeps his Fayetteville State helmet in his locker and always
rushes out to buy the latest football video games. "I still love
football," he says. "If the lockout had gone any longer, I was
going to ask my agent to call some NFL teams."

--Marty Burns