Would a Prime Shaq have tipped the ’95 NBA Finals against the Rockets?

Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images) /
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In another case of revisionist history, Penny Hardaway believes Shaq’s youth was the only thing in the way of a Finals victory over the Houston Rockets.

Many former Orlando Magic stars seem to be forgetting that they didn’t even take a game off of the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals. Just days removed from Horace Grant saying a Game 1 victory would’ve turned the entire series around, Penny Hardaway has made a similarly bold claim.

Hardaway and the Magic had a remarkable regular season and postseason run up until the NBA Finals when it became evident that they were simply outmatched. The players themselves, however, seem to believe the matchup was close to even.

Penny Hardaway recently joined Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson for an episode of All The Smoke to discuss his time in the NBA, including his trip to the Finals in his sophomore season. On the podcast, he talked about how confident the team was heading into a matchup with the Rockets after having beaten them twice in the regular season.

The Magic then received a severe wakeup call in the form of a sweep when the Houston Rockets ended their run in dominant fashion. Despite the series being so lopsided, Hardaway thought one simple factor would’ve swung it the other way completely.

“Dream was the vet and Shaq was the kid,” began Penny. “The Shaq that was with the Lakers — if he would’ve been that Shaq and we played against Houston, we would’ve won. But the Shaq that was in Orlando was just too young.”

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