Orlando got close to an NBA title when they had Shaquille O’Neal — they made it to the NBA finals against Houston and had a 20-point lead in the first half of Game 1. Then they gave it all back, Nick Anderson missed four free throws in the clutch and the Magic lost Game 1 in overtime. Then they mentally fell apart and got swept. The next year, Michael Jordan was back with the Bulls and… well, we all know how that ends.
It was after Jordan and the Bulls swept the Magic out of the Eastern Conference Finals that Shaq headed West to Los Angeles.
Orlando is still pretty bitter about that.
Anderson thinks if Shaq had played his whole career in Orlando, things would be different, he told the Orlando Sentinel.
I’m honest when I say this, I think we would have had five or six championships,” Anderson said of the mid-1990s Magic team he played on with Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant and Co.
We’ll never know, but that seems high. Long before Jordan walked away and that door opened Penny Hardaway had started dealing with major injury issues that had taken his game back to being pretty average. You’re talking about having to restructure that team around Shaq, and it would not have been that simple.
But dream on Nick. That was a good team that had its chance.