Chicago Bulls fans weren’t the only ones shocked when Michael Jordan retired in October 1993. Shaquille O’Neal, who was on the Orlando Magic and won the 1992-93 Rookie of the Year Award, couldn’t believe His Airness was leaving basketball.
After winning his third title, Jordan tragically lost his father. The Bulls icon held a retirement press conference at the Berto Center on October 6, 1993, sending shockwaves throughout the sports world and O’Neal’s head.
Shaquille O’Neal on Michael Jordan retiring: ‘I was shocked’
O’Neal didn’t have much to say when he was asked to talk about Jordan’s retirement. The Diesel said he was shocked when he heard the news and would miss MJ.
“I was shocked,” O’Neal said, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “I just want to say I miss playing with him.”
Jordan and O’Neal faced each other four times during the 1992-93 season. The Bulls went 3-1, with Jordan averaging 35.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists and O’Neal putting up 24.5 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. Chicago won the 1993 Finals over the Phoenix Suns in six games. Meanwhile, Orlando failed to make the playoffs.
The next time Jordan and O’Neal shared the court was on March 24, 1995. It was Black Jesus’ first-ever game at the United Center, and he struggled mightily, shooting just 7-of-23 from the field for 21 points. The Magic defeated the Bulls by a final score of 106-99. O’Neal was a force in the paint. The center finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds and blocked three shots as well.
Shaq may have been sad when Jordan retired in 1993, but he had no problem destroying one of his idols in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Magic beat Bulls in six games
The Bulls and Magic met in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. Along with O’Neal, Orlando had Anfernee Hardaway, Horace Grant, and Nick Anderson. The team was confident heading into the series despite Jordan averaging 32.3 points against the Charlotte Hornets in Chicago’s first-round matchup.
Behind 26 points from O’Neal, the Magic won Game 1, 94-91. Jordan shot 8-of-22 from the floor for 19 points and committed eight turnovers. That was the final game he wore No. 45, as the MVP switched back to No. 23 for the rest of his career.
Jordan dropped 38 points in Game 2 to lead the Bulls to a 10-point win. However, Chicago lost Game 3 at home despite getting 40 points from Captain Marvel. The Bulls did rebound by winning Game 4, but they lost Games 5 and 6 to lose the series in six games.
O’Neal’s Magic are the last team to defeat Jordan in the playoffs. The one-time Defensive Player of the Year got back into basketball shape during the summer of 1995 while filming Space Jam and got his revenge against Orlando in the 1996 playoffs.
Michael Jordan and Bulls swept Shaquille O’Neal and Magic
The Bulls won 72 games during the 1995-96 regular season. Jordan took home his fourth MVP Award and eighth scoring title and was clearly ready to reclaim his throne as the best player in the world.
To Jordan’s delight, the Bulls faced O’Neal and the Magic in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. You couldn’t script a better matchup for Mike. Grant, who won three championships in Chicago, said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries that he knew Jordan had Orlando on his mind all offseason.
The Bulls disposed of the Magic in four quick games. Jordan averaged 29.5 points and got his revenge against O’Neal and Co. He finished his vengeance season by winning the championship over the Seattle SuperSonics.
O’Neal may have missed Jordan in 1993-94, but he didn’t have to wait too long to be reminded that it was still Money’s league.