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Penny Hardaway speaks out on what could’ve been if Shaquille O’Neal didn’t go to Lakers

Magic, Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway believes he would have championships on his NBA résumé if Shaquille O’Neal stayed with the Orlando Magic instead of signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 1996.

Hardaway and Shaq were a lethal dynamic duo on the Magic, but the team was never able to capture a championship. The Magic got swept by the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals.

The following season, the Magic got swept by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. That was O’Neal’s final season in Orlando with Hardaway:

“Obviously, if I wouldn’t have gotten injured, I would have a different ending to my story,” Hardaway told Alex Kennedy on the Hoops Hype Podcast.

“And I know hindsight is always 20/20, but 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.

“We did that E:60 documentary together and we kind of talked it out a little bit and talked about what if. I’ve always appreciated Shaq; I always appreciated him and I’ve always let him know that if it weren’t for him, my career wouldn’t have gone the way that it did. He knows that about me, and he’s said the same thing to me as well.”

O’Neal won three rings with the Lakers. He got his fourth on the Miami Heat in 2006 with Dwyane Wade.

Hardaway, meanwhile, never got back to the Finals and his NBA career was unfortunately hampered by injuries.

The Magic have zero championships in franchise history. The organization was close to getting one with Shaq and Penny, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

The Magic went back to the Finals in 2009 with Dwight Howard, but they lost to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.