Shaquille O'Neal had a pretty legendary career. Not just with his own accomplishments, but also in terms of the stars he teamed up with. He's played alongside a number of future Hall of Fame-caliber players, including Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and LeBron James. Of course, it all started back in Orlando with Penny Hardaway. That pairing managed to reach one NBA Finals together, but their partnership didn't last for too long.
O'Neal decided that it was time for a new path elsewhere and headed to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. He won three titles there while injuries decimated the future of Hardaway's career. This has always left a question in the minds of many. What if Shaq had stayed with Penny in Orlando?
In an interview that took place after the Crunch Celebrity Classic Sweepstakes, sponsored by Cheez-It and Pringles, O'Neal -- one of the two coaches in the celebrity game taking place in San Antonio during Final Four weekend -- NBA title together.that he's pretty sure the duo could have won at least one
"All I was thinking was [we were] the new Magic and the new Kareem. When we played together it was awesome. He was Kobe before Kobe. So I think if we had stayed together we definitely would have gotten one. Maybe two."
The decision to join the Lakers clearly worked out well for Shaq (three straight NBA titles in L.A.), though it is interesting to think what could have been for the Magic had O'Neal stuck around with Penny by his side. It would have been one thing if he had left a losing team with no hope, but he left one that had been winning, but the gamble -- at the time -- paid off.
While Shaq calls Penny his Kobe before Kobe, Hardaway was a very different player in his prime than what Kobe became, but this is more in how they related to Shaq on the court -- guys that he relied on to help their teams win games. First there was Penny, then it became Kobe. In Miami, it was Wade.
Shaq always had that sidekick he needed to win. Just like every all-time great.