One of the most recognizable dynamic duos in the ’90s was, without a doubt, Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway during their time with the Orlando Magic. Looking back at their playing days in Orlando from today’s perspective, there is a feeling they could’ve achieved much more if they had stayed together for a more extended period of time. Even though they never won a championship together, they impacted numerous fans worldwide, and it was so much fun watching them because of the evident chemistry between them.
In a recent interview for Basketball News, Penny Hardaway talked about how it came about the two playing together for the Magic. Before the Magic drafted Penny, he met Shaq on the set of Blue Chips, where they played basketball all the time. It was also an opportunity for Penny to showcase his talents, and on top of that, he was eager to play with Shaq because he already knew they could be a great duo.
Shaq was so dominant that I knew he is going to make my game easier, and I would make his game easier as well. I felt like the combination would be so deadly with me being the point guard that understands his game. By him being double-teamed I knew it’s going to make my game easier. That was the first choice for me. I didn’t want to go to Golden State and play with Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, and those guys. I would rather play with Shaq because of the big men’s helmet.Penny Hardaway, via Basketball News
Another exciting thing that Penny mentioned is that through the entire movie, they actually played real basketball. That allowed Penny to connect with Shaq more than he expected, and his main goal was to find him open every time. Penny was extremely confident and told Shaq they can make it work even before the Magic drafted him. Penny wanted Shaq to lobby within the Magic front office, so they take Penny instead of Chris Webber.
Blue Chips movie they allowed us to play real basketball. It wasn’t scripted until the end when I threw the ball to Shaq. I didn’t shot the ball one time, one day for the entire summer, trying to let him know this is going to happen for you if you get the Magic to pick me at the number one spot. I never missed him on a roll, never missed him on a lob. Every time I penetrated, I gave the ball to him. I overfed him to a point he said I have to have this guy.Penny Hardaway, via Basketball News
The Magic ended up drafting Webber, but they swapped their picks with Warriors, so the deal both Shaq and Penny were hoping for came to the realization. It only took them two years playing together to make it to the NBA finals, and the future looked bright for the Magic. Unfortunately, they lost Shaq in the free agency to the Lakers, and Penny struggled with injuries that permanently affected his career and playing time. Even though their NBA run was short and sweet, they significantly impacted the league and are still remembered as one of the most iconic duos from the ’90s.