Shaquille O’Neal had a storied Hall of Fame career filled with a plethora of accomplishments: four NBA championships, three Finals MVPs, a league MVP, and 14 All-NBA honors to name a few. Likewise, Shaq also played with plenty of teammates throughout his 19-year NBA career. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Penny Hardaway and Dwyane Wade.
Some of them he developed incredible chemistry with, some he hated, some he won championships with.
Out of all those teammates, three happen to stand out:
3. Penny Hardaway
As soon as Anfernee Penny Hardaway debuted for the Orlando Magic in the 1993-94 season, O’Neal’s sophomore campaign, the two clicked right away.
Hardaway was a 6-foot-7 point guard that had amazing handles for his size, good court vision, and a knack to score the basketball. Penny immediately flourished in his role as their lead point man.
Penny had an immediate impact in his rookie season for Orlando. He, along with O’Neal, helped lead the Magic to their first 50-win campaign and their first post-season appearance in franchise history.
The pinnacle of the Shaq-Penny tandem reached its highest when the Magic made the 1994 NBA Finals. However, the veteran Houston Rockets eventually swept the young, up-and-comers en route to their second straight NBA championship.
Despite the embarrassing Finals loss, many, at the time, still believed that Orlando would eventually become a force to be reckoned with for years to come with Shaq and Penny at the helm. Unfortunately, the 1994 Finals was as high as we could see them go as O’Neal eventually made his way to Hollywood in the summer of 1996, abruptly ending the brewing dynasty in Orlando.
Still, Shaq and Penny Hardaway had a special run in their three years together with the Magic. Their overall record in those three campaigns stood at 167-79 (a .708 win percentage).
2. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal had a pretty special time together with the Miami Heat, capped off by a championship in 2006.
When the Los Angeles Lakers traded O’Neal to Miami prior to the 2004-05 season, Wade was just about to enter his second year in the league. Wade was on the verge of becoming a breakout star. Shaq, on the other hand, was a little bit on the decline but was still widely regarded as the best player in the game at that time.
Nevertheless, O’Neal’s acquisition paired with the emerging Wade instantly made the Heat championship contenders. He and O’Neal didn’t win immediately in their first year together, as Miami bowed out to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2006, the Heat made their first ever NBA Finals led by Dwyane Wade and Shaq. They fell 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks after the first two games of the series. But Miami, led by the virtuoso performance of Wade, won the next four contests to capture their first ever NBA Championship.
Their 2006 championship run was the first time that O’Neal wasn’t the best player on his team, as Wade essentially carried Miami to the title with a Finals performance for the ages. In those Finals, Dwyane Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.7 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the field.
1. Kobe Bryant
This isn’t even worth debating. Kobe Bryant and Shaq is arguably one of the most iconic duos in NBA history. It’s definitely up there with the likes of Jordan and Pippen, or Kareem and Magic.
Kobe and Shaq made the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise relevant again, after falling off the map during the 1990s. They won three straight championships together from 2000 to 2002, with O’Neal taking Finals MVP in all three instances. Still, this doesn’t discount Bryant’s efforts during those three championship runs. Kobe was just as phenomenal as Shaq was in those Finals.
Though their partnership ended up in smokes during the summer of 2004, the two have since kissed and made up. They have reflected on their special three-year run of dominance in the early 2000’s and realized how difficult their journey of staying at the top was, especially factoring in their differences. But they made it work, and their partnership, as rocky as they said it was, blossomed into three straight titles.
And we should remind the young ones out there: the last team to accomplish a three-peat in the NBA was the Shaq-Kobe Lakers.