Shaquille O’Neal’s Jealousy Towards Michael Jordan Turned the Tables When They Met

Shaquille O’Neal would be the first one to admit he was jealous and be proud of it too. The way he provokes young players to improve and prove him wrong, he turned envy towards some of his favorite players into something cool. Jealousy never looked good until Shaq used it to torment Michael Jordan. It might be a personal notch on a stacked resume that ‘Shaq’s team’ was the last one to beat MJ and his Chicago Bulls in a playoff series. It wouldn’t have been possible if Jordan wasn’t such a hero to Shaq.

With Penny Hardaway on his podcast, O’Neal made one of his easiest confessions. “I’ve always used professional jealousy – as long as you have respect – I’ve always used that as motivation,” O’Neal said on The Big Podcast. He referred to when he got Penny Hardaway as a teammate in his second year in the NBA.

He pushed Orlando Magic to select Hardaway in the draft because he knew how good he was even as a co-star on Blue Chips. The duo were not only great together, but they were amazing individually. Shaq recalled that from jersey sales to shoe sales, they were nearly matched in popularity. “Even though we are friends… and then one thing about me never going to disrespect you but I knew I had competition and I used that.” Penny agreed that this kind of competition is also a form of respect. Respect is key to Shaq’s jealousy.

Shaq went through the ’80s looking up to Michael Jordan, unable to afford Air Jordans in his size, heading into LSU and arriving in the NBA in 1992 at the peak of Jordan’s first three-peat. He slightly gloated while reminding Hardaway, “The time we beat Mike my whole process was they always talking about Mike… forget that. It’s me and Penny time.”

Orlando Magic was thriving as soon as they got O’Neal. With Penny, and between the Bulls’ two three-peats, Shaq was a regular playoff presence. In 1995, they had a huge chance of winning Orlando’s first title. They met the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Jordan just out of retirement. After a close series, during which His Airness swapped from #45 to #23, Orlando clinched it with Game 6. That was the last time the Jordan-led Bulls lost in a playoff and a dual-edged victory for Shaquille O’Neal.

Jealousy won Shaquille O’Neal bragging rights

O’Neal loves to flex that his Magic squad was the last team to beat Jordan in a playoff setting. But he also regrets how complacent the entire team got after beating Jordan. They ended up getting swept by the Houston Rockets in the Finals.

Regret aside, he said that what pushed him to beat Jordan was a combination of admiration and jealousy. ‘Professional jealousy’ is Shaq’s favorite term, which he also refers to the Caitlin Clark situation in the WNBA. He’s open about emulating his favorite players – from Jordan and Penny to his lifelong mentor Magic Johnson and the one who beat him in 1995, Hakeem Olajuwon. He often said in interviews, “Jealousy moves me.” 

Jealousy is not a bad thing if you use it the way Shaq did. With a side of respect and bragging rights over your hero.

Stay tuned for more such updates, and to follow what Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-agent, Leonard Armato, has to say about the infamous Shaq-Kobe feud, Caitlin Clark’s Olympic snub, and more, watch this video.

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