“It took Kobe two years to get to that level” Shaquille O’Neal emphasizes how Penny Hardaway became Kobe Bryant before Kobe himself

Shaquille O’Neal makes a bold claim about Penny Hardaway, saying that he was a better player than Kobe Bryant. After playing with so many stars, Shaq certainly has the authority to comment on both guards.

Shaquille O'Neal talks about Kobe Bryant and Penny Hardaway
Shaquille O'Neal talks about Kobe Bryant and Penny Hardaway
FirstSportz News

Shaquille O’Neal managed to have his say on the court and was rightfully considered one of the most dominant player in NBA history. The 7-footer giant was a force to fear around the rim. Playing no 5 roles, Shaq was blessed with many talented guards over the years, right from his Rookie season to the Celtics’ retiring years. Recording impressive performances during his honored career, he made many successful pairing with other megastars. He did make a huge impact on respective franchises playing alongside MVP players like Kobe Bryant, Penny Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, LBJ, and Steve Nash. 

Out of these players, Shaq has won championships with Kobe Bryant at the Lakers, and D-Wade at the Miami Heat, but he seemed to feel a bigger affinity for Hardaway. Hardaway was the first superstar teammate he had in his career at the Magic, and Penny-Shaq took the Orlando franchise to their first NBA Finals in 1995. But after being swept in the finals, Diesel left for the Lakers, breaking the dream pairing.  

And after so many years, still, Shaq has once again shown his respect for Penny and has even claimed that Hardaway was Kobe Bryant before the Los Angeles Lakers icon blossomed into a global superstar. As per Shaq, Hardaway was a combination of Kobe, LeBron, and Wade – making him a unique offensive superstar.

Shaquille O’Neal reacts on pairing with the most iconic guards like Kobe Brant and Penny Hardaway.

Shaquille O'Neal with Penny Hardaway and Kobe Bryant
Shaquille O’Neal with Penny Hardaway and Kobe Bryant

In his 20 years career, Shaquille O’Neal has many shining trophies to show off and impressively he did it in super teams of his era. He was a big part of those super-teams but instead of having another megastar in the team, Shaq did manage to claim the top spot in every team. He won 4 NBA Championships, 3 Finals MVP trophies, and a regular season scoring title.

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There is no question about the importance and impact of another player on his career, but he has his views on the same. During an interview on The Pivot Podcast, Shaq explained why he believed Penny came into the league ready, becoming what Kobe Bryant would become a couple of years later. Commenting on his relation with Hardaway, he said, “I think if I/we didn’t have those egos, we could have definitely worked that out. Because I always tell people he was Kobe before Kobe. Penny Hardaway was a cold cat, he really was, he really was.”

Penny Hardaway was 3rd overall pick and made a huge stride in the league. He was an impressive rookie in the leagues and went on to make it to the Finals in his very second season with big Shaq. But injuries hounded him throughout his 15 years career and limited him to just 704 games in those years.

Shaq reflected on Penny’s abilities and issues, as he said, “If Penny didn’t get hurt, he would have been one of the top 3 players in the history of the game… Took Kobe two, maybe two and a half years to get to that level. Penny came in, he was already like that. First-year he came, we went to the finals. Penny was cold!… People give me flak like that and say he couldn’t have turned out, but if he wouldn’t have gotten injured, he would definitely be up there, definitely.”

Penny Hardaway looked destined to do great in the league and help magic to reach new highs. After Shaq’s injury and carrying the team to the playoffs single-handedly, the 24-year-old promising star was hit by a series of knee injuries, restricting his explosive nature.

This is one of the biggest ‘what-ifs’ in NBA history, but Shaq seems pretty confident that things would have been great if nothing bad happened to Penny. Also, he might have won multiple trophies with Magic.

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