Throughout his career, Shaquille O’Neal had the chance to play with great players, including two of the best to ever do it, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Shaq played for several teams and he shared touches with at least one superstar in each of them. However, his first superstar teammate was Penny Hardaway in the Orlando Magic.
They played together for three years, reaching the NBA Finals in 1995, losing against the Houston Rockets in four games. Their duo was something great to watch. For Shaq, Penny was as great as any other player he played with, comparing him to Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. During an appearance on NBA on TNT, Shaq said:
“Penny is a mixture of all the other guys I’ve played with. At times, he was like D Wade because he could just take over the game. He is sort of like LeBron (James), he’s a great passer. Whenever I wanted the ball, whenever I ran the floor, he always got me the ball. We never had problems. And he had that killer instinct of Kobe (Bryant). And I hate to see his career cut short because of injuries. If he didn’t have injuries, people would definitely hear his name more. Penny was the coolest young kid ever since I saw D Wade, LeBron, and Kobe,” he said.
Penny and Shaq were expected to do big things with the Magic. Unfortunately, off-court matters and injuries prevented these two from being great together. Shaq would win four championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat while Penny saw his level decreased, finishing his career as one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in the history of the league.