It was early in the season and everybody was busy jumpin’ on the Magic’s wagon. Who could blame them with a starting five stacked with fellas like Penny, Shaq and Horace? They had the talent; so the hype was real. But they still had plenty to prove after being cold swept by the Pacers in last year’s Playoffs.
Enter the Knicks for an early season head-up. The Knicks were having troubles with the new no-hands rules and all, so the Magic were sittin’ pretty in first in the Atlantic Division—a position the Knicks have owned the past few seasons through a combination of hard work and intimidation. In their meetings last season, the Magic were good, but not good enough to push the kings off the mountain. This season, they promised it would be a different story.
The entire country was scopin’ this game so the players had to be on. And the baddest of them all was not Shaq, but point guard Penny Hardaway. After the final buzzer sounded, his line read: 33 points, 8 assists, 6 rebs, 3 steals and one na-a-a-sty slam.
The game was over by halftime as the Magic made the Knicks look like a bunch of old geezers. Still, Penny had to rub it in with the dunk.
After Derek Harper chucked the ball at the rim, Anthony Avent grabbed the rebound and wheeled around to see who was downcourt. With Charles Smith applying some weak D, Avent spotted The Future streaking down the court: Shaq and Penny. As Penny sprinted down the left side, Avent threw a one-bounce baseball pass to Penny, who grabbed the rock, took one dribble and cocked the ball in his right hand, measuring the rim all the way. The only Knick back was Ewing. He shouldn’t have bothered. Penny took off and Ewing challenged. With his left arm extended in Ewing’s mug, Penny threw it down, vicious-like. And as he headed back up court, undoubtedly knowin’ he’d be a Slamadamonth, he starting yelling and laughing, slapping a few hands on the way upcourt.
It was that cold.