Chris Webber Cites Shaquille O'Neal as Reason for Avoiding Orlando Draft

Webber's Draft Day Dilemma Shapes NBA Trading Dynamics

by Nouman Rasool
Chris Webber Cites Shaquille O'Neal as Reason for Avoiding Orlando Draft
© Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In the world of professional sports, pivotal decisions often hinge on the dynamics between star players. The 1993 NBA Draft showcased this phenomenon when Chris Webber, a standout from Michigan's "Fab Five," faced a career-defining choice.

Poised to be the number one pick, Webber's entry into the NBA was clouded by the presence of Shaquille O'Neal at the Orlando Magic, the team with the first draft pick. Webber's hesitation stemmed from Orlando's clear intention to build around O'Neal, who had already established himself as a dominant force in the league.

In his rookie season, O'Neal averaged an impressive 23.5 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game, rapidly becoming the franchise cornerstone. The idea of playing second fiddle to O'Neal did not sit well with Webber, who believed in a more collaborative team dynamic.

"That turned me off," Webber explained in an interview with SLAM Magazine. "My opinion is it's no man's team. I don't care if it is Michael [Jordan] or Magic [Johnson]. They're the leaders, but the team is its own."

Shaq's Strategic Move

Despite Webber's reservations, the Magic selected him as their first overall pick.

However, a twist of fate and a bit of backstage maneuvering by O'Neal led to a quick resolution that suited all parties involved. O'Neal had his sights set on Penny Hardaway, a skilled player he had met during the filming of the movie "Blue Chips." Captivated by Hardaway's on-court prowess, O'Neal persuaded the Magic's management to trade for him.

"So I see this skinny kid and this MF diming me up every time. I'm fu---- thinking he's an actor. 'Yeah, man, what's your name?' He said, 'Hey man, I'm Penny Hardaway.' ... I got on the phone, and I said, 'Yo, you ever heard of the name Penny Hardaway?' He said yes.

I said, 'I want this MF with me," Shaq recounted. Thus, Webber was traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Hardaway and three future first-round picks. This trade allowed Webber to pursue a leadership role with the Warriors, where he delivered a Rookie of The Year-worthy performance, averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Shaq and Hardaway formed one of the most dynamic duos in the NBA, propelling the Magic to an NBA Finals appearance in 1995. However, their partnership lasted only three seasons before O'Neal departed for the Los Angeles Lakers.

As for Webber, his journey took him to the Washington Bullets after a single season with the Warriors, marking the beginning of another distinct chapter in his career. This series of events underscores the intricate interplay of individual aspirations and team strategies that define the professional sports landscape.