The NBA is a league that has been dominated by multiple superstar duos. Be it Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, superstar duos are pivotal to the side.
In the 1990s, apart from the obvious Jordan and Pippen, one specific duo terrorized the league. This was the duo of one of the most skillful point guards, Penny Hardaway, and the other was a dynamic big man, Shaquille O’Neal.
If not for the injuries to Penny, the duo could have dominated the East for years to come.
Penny Hardaway reveals why he wanted to play with Shaquille O’Neal
The 4-Time All-Star had an instant impact when he entered the NBA. In the second year itself, he made it to an All-Star game and entered the All-NBA team.
Hardaway recently interacted in Basketball News’ ‘The Rematch’. When asked about why he wanted to play with a player like Shaq, Hardaway replied, “First of all, Shaq was so dominant.
“I knew that if I hooked up with him, he would make my game easier and I would make his game easier as well. I feel like the combination would be so deadly with me being the point guard that who understands his game, and by him being double teamed that was gonna make my game easier. That was just the first choice. I just wanted to play with Shaq with the big man element.”
Hardaway also revealed how sharing the screen with Shaq helped him to build rapport with the star. “The advantage that I had was when we were in a movie Blue Chips. In the Blue Chips movie they allowed us to play real basketball. It wasn’t scripted till the end.
“We were basically playing pickup ball in the movie. I didn’t shoot the ball one time. Not the whole summer.I wanted to let him know this is what’s gonna happen for you, if you get the Magic to pick me as the number 1 pick. Every time I had the ball, I passed it to him. I did not miss any one of them. I overfed him to the point where he was like I gotta have this guy.”
How good were the Hardaway and Shaq duo?
When the Orlando Magic traded for Penny Hardaway, not much was expected from him. This was a move solely made to fulfill Shaq’s demands. The duo immediately hit it off. They became a playoff team immediately, and the addition of Penny was more helpful. Though they looked like a cohesive unit, they were ultimately ousted by the Seattle Supersonics.
The next season, the duo really hit another gear. The team was unstoppable. The Shaq and Penny duo, along with players like Horace Grant, steamrolled past opponents.
They even defeated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Conference finals. There are only a few teams who have done that. The young Magic side looked like a Championship team, but Hakeem Olajuwon had different ideas. The Rockets were ultimately too much for Orlando side, who lost the series in four games.
In 1996, the team looked set to win, but the Bulls had some other plans. They had added Dennis Rodman, who was a pest at defense and one of the best rebounders.
The new look Bulls swept the Magic. This was the same story for the Magic for next season, as they could not defeat even the Miami Heat, which was not that stacked. With Penny out for the next season, Shaq lost patience with the team. The star finally moved to the Lakers in 1996-97.
If Hardaway could have been fit for a year or two, the Magic could have stayed as one of the top teams. The duo could also have cemented their legacy as one of the best duos in the NBA ever.
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This post was last modified on December 24, 2020 6:40 pm