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|CNNSI.com asked if Magic fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.
Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say.
Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
The Orlando Magic haven't been around long enough to break many hearts, although when they lose a star they lose a big one. One has to look no further than the never-was dynasty of Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway when discussing the worst thing to happen to a Magic fan.
The De-evolution of Magic: Shaq and Penny in Orlando, Atlanta and then in the Western Conference. Brad Gossage, Doug Pensinger, Tom Hauck/Allsport
| July 18,
| C Shaquille O'Neal signs free-agent contract
with the Los Angeles Lakers
It's not easy playing second fiddle to a mouse. Throw in charismatic Penny Hardaway and lovable Lil Penny, and suddenly Orlando just wasn't big enough to hold Shaquille O'Neal, whose awesome physical prowess is matched only by his larger-than-life persona.
And leave it to Shaq to make his Hollywood entrance on the world's largest scale, right smack dab in the middle of the Olympics. You get the feeling a few people in the bars at Church Street Station were rooting for Yugoslavia in that '96 gold medal game.
Shaq may have turned his back on the Magic, but never on his fans. Robert Laberge/Allsport
Oh, but it was good times for a few years there, wasn't it? By drafting Shaq No. 1 overall in '92, the Magic headed into their fourth season instantly transformed from laughable expansion team to contenders. The next season they added Hardaway at the point, the year after that they signed Horace Grant and it all added up to an appearance in the '95 NBA Finals.
But Shaq would stick around only one more season, leaving Orlando in quest of ample recording studio space and easy access to the Hollywood backlots.
Orlando owner Rich DeVos, the Amway magnate and author of The Compassionate Capitalist stopped bidding at seven years, $115 million because in his mind he didn't want O'Neal if it was just about a bidding war. Shaq, of course, claimed it wasn't ... then took the Lakers' $121-million deal.
"It wasn't about money," O'Neal said. "The Los Angeles Lakers gave me a good, fair deal, but money was not the main factor. I just want to go have fun, be young, drink Pepsi, and wear Reebok."
Well, he also won an NBA title and a league MVP with the Lakers.
Shaq sought that white-hot spotlight of L.A. Jeff Gross/Allsport
Orlando, meanwhile, slipped back into NBA obscurity until stealing a page from the Lakers' playbook and swiping stars Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady before the 2000-01 season.
|| Shaq has Big Contract, but also has Big Heart
Orlando Sentinel -- August 18, 1996
By Larry Guest
The persistent and sneering question from some of my foreign correspondent pals stationed in outposts such as Chicago and Denver and Boston goes something like this: Now that the dust has settled, how do Orlando fans really feel about the defection of Shaquille O'Neal?
I give them the usual response that the Orange County department of statistics is reporting no alarming outbreak of locals flinging themselves from high window ledges, or consuming lethal doses of that gosh-awful citrus wine. Many seem to share my view that Shaq's increasingly self-absorbed and disrespectful attitude toward his coaches, teammates, opponents, the media and public won't be missed. Ditto for his agent, his (lack of) defense and, most of all, his free-throw spray.
I will miss the pizazz his larger-than-life persona injected into each Magic game, making each of them an event. Most of all, though, I will miss the soft side of Shaq, the little-boy generosity that reached out to share with the kids, the needy, the ill. That's the side that first exposed itself to us with Shaqsgiving Dinner, the annual homeless feast he brainstormed on his own. ...
... At the news conference/stage production last month in Atlanta when O'Neal announced his jump to the Lakers, Shaq mouthed all the proper things about the Magic, Brian Hill and Orlando. The only time I was confident he was sincere was when he said, softly, "Most of all, I'll miss the children."
|| Greg Foltz, Lexington, Md.
My heart was broken, like so many others in Orlando, when Shaquille O'Neal left for the Lakers. Not just his leaving, but the fact that he stated all along that money wasn't the issue and that he liked Orlando (where his home was). ... Why lie?
| August 5,
| Magic trade G Penny Hardaway to Phoenix
for C Danny Manning, F Pat Garrity
and two 1st-round picks
Early in his career, Penny Hardaway's physical abilities gave Orlando fans visions of a dynasty. As things wore on, however, his enigmatic personality and long laundry list of unfulfilled expectations wore out his welcome.
Soft-spoken or just soft? That was the question Magic fans wrestled with. Allsport
Among his gaffes was calling Orlando "the worst place in the NBA to play." He also was held responsible for the player revolt that did in Brian Hill, then helped usher Chuck Daly into retirement. Questionable injuries lost the respect of fans and questionable leadership lost the respect of teammates and coaches.
When it came time to exercise a three-year option, Hardaway declined and then asked Orlando to re-sign him before working out a trade to Phoenix. The summer of '99 was a long one for Magic fans, who also saw Nick Anderson (the team's first ever draft pick) and Horace Grant traded away.
There could be a silver lining in all of this for Magic fans. Beyond the multi-year contracts signed by stars Hill and McGrady this past summer, the Magic parlayed many of their heartbreaking trades into draft picks. Orlando could have as many as nine first-rounders in the next five years, although some are conditional and some may be owed to other teams.
That may or may not be the key to rebuilding a franchise that has only two of its own draft picks on the current roster -- 1998 first-round Michael Doleac (7.2ppg) and 2000 first-rounder Mike Miller (10.1 ppg).
|| Goodbye and Good Riddance
to Magic's No. 1 Problem
Orlando Sentinel -- August 6, 1999
By George Diaz
The Orlando Magic took the honorable way out, sticking $86.6 million in the pockets of a gutless traitor.
In return, Penny Hardaway simply stuck a knife in their backs.
The slice-and-dice is Penny's signature move, one that will define his legacy with the Magic. The DNA evidence is irrefutable: His handprints are on the knife he used to bloody Coach Brian Hill, undercut teammate Nick Anderson and stab elderly Chuck Daly into retirement.
The Magic did the right thing by severing ties with Hardaway, an unsightly cancerous growth in the locker room and this community.
It is a contentious divorce, the end of one party's exhaustive pleas for a reconciliation. Hardaway would have none of it, and certainly will absolve himself of any culpability.
For all his cumulative wealth spread throughout Isleworth and beyond, Hardaway could never bring himself to buy the one cheap accessory that he truly needed:
|| Joseph Katta, Windermere, Fla.
Orlando took it as a shock when Shaq left. However, after Penny left, the town was not as mad. In my opinion, Penny has to be the biggest waste of God-given talent. He had the potential to be great, but his refusal to play because of so-called "injuries" has made him another average player. In turn, Orlando was greatly upset over the departure of Shaq, but relieved over the trade of Penny.
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