Shaq's partner in crime that perhaps best fit his personality was Penny Hardaway. There were no egos involved. No arguing about who was the leader of the team. None of that. It was just about their abilities as one of the most exciting 1-2 punches during the 90s.
O'Neal has said it himself that he and Penny would've delivered the Magic their first NBA championship if he hadn't joined the Lakers. It's entirely hypothetical, and I'm not going to get into those, but the fact is they were starting to look like as NBA's next big duo. Do you need proof? Is the fact they made the Finals in '95 enough? Or should I tell you that they were the last team to beat MJ's Bulls in a playoff series? As I said, they were a unique tandem, and it's a real shame that Shaq left as early as he did.
Whenever he gets asked about Penny, Shaq talks nothing but praise about his former teammate. It even seems that Diesel made it his mission to let people know just how good this guy was. I mean, he described Hardaway as a combination of Wade, LeBron, and Kobe. If you've never heard about the guy, I bet you'll look him up after hearing something like that.
It seems that Shaq has always been on some sort of a mission when it comes to Hardaway, even before Penny joined the Magic. It all started on the movie set when Shaq saw the kid from Memphis for the first time.
I went to LA to shoot a movie called Blue Chips. Every time I put my hand up, this guy is hitting me with perfect passes. So finally I ask my boy 'yo, who's that actor? 'He said, 'that's Penny Hardaway 'and I was like, 'who's that? 'He's like 'yo man, he plays for Memphis, and they're saying he's gonna be the number 3 pick.'
Shaquille O'Neal, NBA on TNT
As it turned out, his first mission was to get the Magic to even draft the guy. Shaq loved his playing ability so much that he was ready to go to distance to make it happen.
We're talking about the guy who, up until that point, has never exercised his power to impact the front office's decisions. He was strictly a basketball player, with no interest in intervening with something that wasn't in his formal job description. But Penny was the guy worth standing up for. Shaq liked his play that much.
I go into the office and say, 'hey if ya'll don't get me Penny Hardaway, when my deal is up, Imma talk about doing something else. 'And they promised me they would. So now I'm at the house I'm watching the draft, and they draft Chris Webber. Now I'm pissed; I break TVs, I break furniture, I'm yelling, I'm screaming, 'get my agent on the phone I don't wanna be here. 'And then, after I calmed down, I see that they traded Chris Webb, and we got Penny.
Shaquille O'Neal, NBA on TNT
So Shaq completed his first Penny Hardaway mission. He basically blackmailed the organization into drafting him because he believed in the guy that much. Shaq wanted Penny to throw him pinpoint passes on the movie set and NBA hardwoods. And he did it, just not as long as NBA fans would've like to.
And as it turns out, not as long as Shaq would've liked to. Maybe that's why he's hyping the guy up that much. Perhaps that's Shaq's redemption mission, to remind people just how good Penny was since he didn't utilize it when the two played together.
If that's the case, keep doing you, Shaq! People can't forget how talented Penny really was!