The ’90s were a golden era for professional basketball, with exciting teams and superstars filling the NBA with storylines that would continue into the new millennium. While the decade is remembered primarily for Michael Jordan and his six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, there were legitimate challengers to the Bulls dynasty. For instance: the mid-’90s Orlando Magic, a team that paired the upstart sensation Shaquille O’Neal with Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and posed one of the most potent threats (at the time) to Jordan’s legacy.
Together Hardaway and O’Neal would make the Magic one of the most character-driven teams in the league, lending the small-market team a national profile with their larger-than-life personas and on-court theatrics. Grantland has put together a lengthy oral history of the Magic’s three-year run as one of the NBA’s most promising teams. Speaking to the Magic’s players, competitors, and members of its organization, these firsthand accounts tell the tale of how the mighty Magic came together and how it all unfurled before they could bring home a championship. It’s a fascinating look into the NBA dynasty that could have been.