‘Blue Chips’ Helped Create the Shaq and Penny Hardaway Magic

by Jeremy Spirogis
Shaquille O

Blue Chips could also be a fictionalized model of precise occasions, however behind the scenes, it sparked a true-life friendship. At the time of its filming, a younger Shaquille O’Neal arrived on set and met one other basketball participant named Penny Hardaway. While the 2 didn’t know one another, they struck up a bond that lasted for years afterward and ultimately led to their team-up with the Orlando Magic. 

Shaquille O'Neal at the premiere of an ESPN documentary
Shaquille O’Neal on the purple carpet | Mike Pont/WireImage

‘Blue Chips’

Blue Chips tells the story of Pete Bell, a school basketball coach performed by Nick Nolte. Bell is pressured to resolve whether or not he needs to play the sport the precise means or start to make use of unlawful practices to assist construct up his squad. While groups throughout the nation are secretly paying gamers to attend their faculties, Bell has sometimes performed issues the precise means. 

Bell rests on his laurels and permits a booster to produce gamers with funds, vehicles, homes, and different unlawful presents to make sure their dedication to the college. With each unlawful motion, Pete falls additional and farther from the objectives he arrange for himself as a coach. Eventually, it catches as much as him, and he’s pressured to reckon with the implications. 

The movie is beloved by basketball followers all over the place. In a style that usually focuses on the optimistic elements of competitors, Blue Chips reveals the seedy underbelly of school sports activities. To make issues extra true to life, it options cameos from Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale, and several other different basketball personalities all through. 

To get a sensible portrayal of the basketball itself, the film solid actual gamers to play members of Coach Bell’s group. Hardaway and O’Neal are two of those gamers. 

Forging a friendship 

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When preproduction commenced, O’Neal wasn’t conscious of what sort of basketball expertise he was co-starring with. He recalled what occurred on the set in a 2019 interview with Sports illustrated that reunited the solid and crew. 

“I didn’t know who Penny was before that movie,” O’Neal advised the journal.

“I used to be enjoying at some point [in preproduction], and I seen he was at all times on my group. I lastly advised someone, ‘Man, I don’t know why this dude’s an actor. He can play within the league.’ They was like, ‘He is going to play. He’s most likely going high three within the draft.’”

While motion pictures and basketball are totally different, the studio offered actual coaches to make sure that the basketball being filmed was as true to life as potential. Because of this, it become some significant court docket time between O’Neal and his future teammate. They bought to know one another as basketball gamers and as folks, and by the point that the 1993 Draft got here alongside, this rapport paid off. 

Entering the NBA

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O’Neal had a yr of NBA basketball beneath his belt earlier than the 1993 NBA Draft, and he was already wanting like a famous person. When the Magic bought the primary total choose, the consensus selection was Michigan star Chris Webber, who would have joined O’Neal within the frontcourt, or Memphis level guard Penny Hardaway. They drafted Webber and instantly flipped him to the Warriors to get O’Neal’s friend on the group with him. 

For three years, the Shaq and Penny present was one of the crucial common dynamics within the NBA. With Michael Jordan out on his first retirement, the pair took full benefit and made all of it the way in which to the 1995 NBA Finals in opposition to the Houston Rockets. Following the 1996 season, nevertheless, O’Neal break up for Los Angeles, and accidents slowed Hardaway down quickly after. 

The pair had a quick reunion in Miami years later. Still, when folks take into consideration them, they may most certainly take into consideration Orlando’s time. Without Blue Chips, this may occasionally have by no means occurred. 

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