Shaq Thought Penny Hardaway Was an Actor, Not a Basketball Player When They Filmed ‘Blue Chips’

Not only were Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway teammates with the Orlando Magic, the two starred in a movie together. Basketball fans may remember the duo taking the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals, where they were swept by the Houston Rockets 4-0.

Just a year before, a movie called “Blue Chips” was released in February of 1994. A few of the cast members just so happened to be O’Neal and Hardaway. That was the first time that the two met, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

What was “Blue Chips” about?

The movie is about a college basketball coach who is in need of a winning season, or he may get potentially fired. Bending the rules, the coach attracts some of the best recruits to attend his school and help lead his program to a national championship.

At first, the head coach, played by Nick Nolte, does not want to bend the rules to attract these top players to his school. But he was under a lot of pressure and needed to win. So, he was able to bring some of the best recruits to his school with a few incentives. Some recruits received money, houses, and even a car—all of those things to attend a college and play basketball.

Two of those recruits were O’Neal and Hardaway. O’Neal’s character was Neon Boudeaux, a player from Louisiana. When he was recruited, he did not want any incentives, and he just wanted to play basketball. But the coach ended up giving him a brand-new Lexus. Hardaway’s character, Butch McRae, was able to get his mom a new house and job.

The movie follows this team who brought in the top players in the country, and their season was quickly turned around. With the addition of these recruits, the team instantly became a winning program. This movie just overall showed how rules can be bent in the NCAA and how people can work around those rules to bring in these top recruits to their schools.

Shaq did not know Hardaway actually was a basketball player

The movie was O’Neal’s debut as an actor. O’Neal, who was already in the NBA, met Hardaway for the first time on the set of the film. Hardaway already knew who O’Neal was, but Shaq did not know who Hardaway was. While they were shooting the movie, O’Neal thought that Hardaway was just an actor. Little did he know he would be a top draft pick and eventually become teammates.

O’Neal noticed Hardaway’s basketball skills and thought that he was really good. It wasn’t until someone told O’Neal who Hardaway was and that he was going to be a potential top-three draft pick in the upcoming draft. When O’Neal found out who he was, he made it his mission to have the Magic find a way to get Hardaway on the team. The rest is history.

Shaq and Penny duo in Orlando

The Golden State Warriors actually drafted Hardaway in the 1993 NBA draft, but the Magic found a way to trade for the high-profile point guard. The two would see themselves reconnected, but this time it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing.

When the two finally teamed up in the NBA, they helped lead the Magic to the NBA finals and one of the best teams in the league. Though they weren’t able to win a championship, both players established themselves as two of the best players in the game.