Throughout the course of the 2016-17 NBA season, mainstream sports media have been fascinated with the free agency breakup of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The breakup ended up for Westbrook and Durant, of course. Westbrook is enjoying individual success as a favorite to win the NBA’s regular season MVP award. Durant is enjoying greener pastures as a member of the Golden State Warriors, a presumable favorite in the NBA’s Western Conference.
This free dynamic free agency shift is not the first of its kind. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined the Boston Celtics and would win a championship with Paul Pierce in 2008. And LeBron James would team with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and would win two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat before returning back to the team that drafted him in 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before the social media era, there was a similar scenario in the 90’s with the Orlando Magic. The team was stacked in every way: Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and more. and the Orlando Magic. But after a brief run in the 1995 NBA Finals, Shaq would realize his worth and sign a mega contract via free agency with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was the center of the future and he, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson would rule the NBA and the Western Conference in the early 2000s.
But oh that Orlando Magic team! Would they have been potent in the NBA?
TNT’s Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith thinks so!
Smith, who suited up against the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Finals against his now current Inside The NBA co-host, Shaquille O’Neal weighed in on Scoop B Radio “You know, anytime you have a guard and a big man it’s the perfect balance,” Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith told Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson.
“So they had the perfect balance and you had Penny who was so versatile that he could play inside, outside. “And you had Shaq with everything that he’s done. And being so young, that was the dynasty missed; dynasty missed by the Orlando Magic, for sure.”
Shaq would end up with the better career, winning multiple rings with the Lakers and with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat under head coach Pat Riley. Penny Hardaway wasn’t as lucky. After O’Neal’s departure, he’d be the team’s lone star, but struggled with a devastating injury that cut short his promising career. After his time with the Magic, he’d bounce around the league playing for the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Miami Heat before retiring in 2007.