For an 8-year stretch between 1991-98, Michael Jordan dominated the field, winning 6 championships. The only playoff series he lost in that duration was to Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaquille O’Neal has achieved tremendous success ever since he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 4 championships to end his career. However, many argue that his most dominant years were the ones with Orlando Magic, the team that drafted him No.1 in 1992.
Alongside Penny Hardaway, the Orlando Magic were an absolute force in the east, winning 50 games in 1994. This was the year when Penny was drafted, and they were only bound to get better, which they did.
The Orlando Magic went ahead and signed Bulls forward Horace Grant in the 1994 off-season, and the team turned into a legit contender overnight. The Magic won 57 games in only their sixth season of existence and demolished the Celtics 3-1 in the first round. Up next, however, were the Chicago Bulls, re-energized by the addition of Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Michael Jordan had not lost a series since losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. While MJ was rusty coming out of his retirement, he had enough games under the belt to challenge the mighty Magic. But, in what remains a spectacular moment, the Magic sent the Bulls packing in 6 games to make the Conference Finals.
The Bulls and the Magic met again the following postseason in 1996, where the Magic were swept by the legendary MJ-Pippen-Rodman trio.
Shaq believes that the series win remains a pivotal moment in his career. “I take pride in being the last guy to beat Michael Jordan in a playoff situation. Everybody is going to say that he came back from baseball, but my thing is that if you step on that court and I know he has the same mentality if you are on that court, that means you are ready to go.”
“The next year they came back, demolished us, and made sure we didn’t win a game. I’m sure he was rusty when he came back, but he didn’t suck.” Shaq was quick to point out how despite his lack of preparation, Michael Jordan wasn’t an easy out even when he lost in 1995.
Outdueling the GOAT is no mean feat, even with the given circumstances, and Shaq surely cherishes the playoff win fondly. After all, as it turned out, no one would ever do it again.