They were the last team to beat the Jordan Bulls in the Playoffs. Orlando Magic with Shaq and Penny were destined to be the franchise to be reckoned with in the second part of the 90s, and it all changed when Shaq decided to leave. While the Big Diesel was the obvious no.1 on that team, people shouldn’t sleep on Penny. Here’s how Shaq described his game.
“People talk about Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, Penny was in that category before he got hurt.”Shaquille O’Neal, GQ
It was Shaq who brought Penny to Orlando. They were both acting in “Blue Chips” the first time they met. Shaq never heard of Penny before, and Hardaway wanted to make sure he left the set thinking about him. Throughout the shoot, Penny would create for Shaq to show him how good they could work together. When the movie was done, Shaq went to management and told them Penny is a deal-breaker for him, and they must draft him.
We covered the chronology of Shaq leaving in detail before, but we can sum it up with – Orlando was penny-pinching, a majority of Magic fans saying Shaq was asking for too much, and Jerry West seized the moment. Their relationship went wrong over the way Penny found out Shaq was leaving.
Both were at a press conference for the Olympics when reporters asked Hardaway how he felt about Shaq leaving. He still didn’t know it had happened and answered as if it was a hypothetical. The fact they didn’t speak made Penny mad, mostly because he didn’t get a chance to convince Shaq to stay. Years later, they patched things up and are confident they could’ve won a few together.
“I really feel like if Shaq would’ve stayed, I definitely would’ve been way more successful and gotten more credit because we would’ve won championships.”Penny Hardaway, HoopsHype
In a way, Penny was the best fit out of all teammates Shaq ever had. Hardaway describes himself as an introvert, someone who didn’t care about being the no.1 option on a team and was happy to let Shaq lead the way. Unfortunately, Magic didn’t want to pay him, and Penny didn’t get a chance to stop him from leaving.
Their short stint keeps them out of mind for most basketball fans when talking about the fabulous teams of the 90s, but when they were cooking, Shaq, Penny, and the rest of the team were playing spectacular basketball.