Shaquille O’Neal says Penny Hardaway was a better player than Kyrie Irving

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal played with some terrific players in his NBA career, from Kobe Bryant to Penny Hardaway to Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning.

That doesn’t even include the end of O’Neal’s career, where he played with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Steve Nash on the Phoenix Suns and even joined the Boston Celtics with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

With all of the amazing players that O’Neal played with, he certainly is going to have some favorites along the way.

O’Neal was recently asked if Hardaway was a better player than Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving, and he quickly chose his former Orlando Magic teammate.

During his prime, Hardaway was a dynamic guard for Orlando, as he made four All-Star teams in his NBA career and was a three-time All-NBA selection.

Hardaway’s career numbers don’t compare well to those of Irving, but he did average 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game in his six seasons in Orlando.

Irving, who has bounced around from the Cavaliers to the Celtics and is now with the Nets, has career averages of 23.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 47.0 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.

There’s no doubt that Irving is an insanely talented offensive player, but O’Neal didn’t even feel the need to explain his pick of Hardaway when asked about the two.

Hardaway’s career resume certainly pales in comparison to that of Irving, but it’s worth noting that in his last five NBA seasons, Hardaway failed to average over 10 points per game. Injuries certainly limited him at the end of his career, and Irving is currently still in his prime.

Irving does have an NBA championship, something Hardaway never achieved in his NBA career, and he hit one of the most important shots in NBA history in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

O’Neal may take some heat for his pick of Hardaway, but basketball fans should just appreciate the talents of Irving and Hardaway, especially since Irving is still playing.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.