In the first part of the ’90s, the Orlando Magic were one of the most exciting NBA teams; having the dynamic duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway helped the franchise reach the heights it never reached before. They surrounded them with great role players, but Shaq and Penny captivated the league because everybody saw them as the newer version of Kareem and Magic. Everybody thought they would both rule the NBA for the next decade, winning multiple championships together with the Magic.
Unfortunately, after the Chicago Bulls swept them in the 1996 ECF, the Magic made some terrible decisions, making Shaq leave the Magic and play for the Lakers. Therefore, the dynamic duo of Shaq and Penny was dismantled, and in an interview with Chris Broussard, Shaq said he still fondly remembers his day with the Magic. He said Penny is still, to this day, the favorite all-star player he ever had the opportunity to play with because Penny made the right plays and made the game much easier for everyone around him.
Shaq said Penny was a combination of LeBron and Kobe because of his ability to switch things up. He was a great facilitator like LeBron and was able to get other players involved, while on the other hand, he had that killer mentality like Kobe in terms of taking over games when necessary.
I would have to say Penny because he didn’t have the chance to showcase himself like the other guys did. Those injuries halted him, but Penny was LeBron and Kobe before LeBron and Kobe. At times, he played like LeBron getting everybody involved, and at times he took over the game like Kobe. He was one of my favorite guys to play with because from day one, he looked for me. I’ve met him at the movie set doing Blue Chips, and I said if yall don’t get this guy at the end of the month, I will be doing something else.Shaquille O’Neal, via In The Zone
Penny was one of those players whose career took a wrong turn after a knee injury, after which he was never the same player, even though he played in the NBA until 2007.
I would love to see him go a full career without getting hurt.Shaquille O’Neal, via In The Zone
In his long and illustrious career, Shaq played with other great players like Kobe, Wade, LeBron, so it may sound surprising he said Penny was the one he enjoyed playing with the most. However, if you had the opportunity to watch the two together with the Magic back in the day, you can understand where Shaq comes from. He also said those four years at Orlando were the best years of his entire career. Penny was an absolute beast and truly mesmerizing player in his own right, but unfortunately, his career didn’t turn out to be as people hoped it would be after the knee injuries.