Credit R.Smith youtube channel
Hardaway was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 1993 NBA draft (third pick overall), but was traded along with three future first-round picks to the Orlando Magic for the rights to first overall pick Chris Webber. The Magic's intent was to draft Webber and pair him with Shaquille O'Neal until Hardaway – whose desire was to play alongside O'Neal – requested a second workout to show why he should be their pick. Two days before the draft, Hardaway participated in a pick-up basketball game with several Magic players and local talent and impressed the organization enough to make the draft day trade. During the 1994–95 NBA season, the Magic won a franchise record 57 games while Hardaway averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He was named a starter in his first NBA All-Star game and was named All-NBA First Team. The highlight of the playoff run was the second-round defeat of the Chicago Bulls. Along with Shaquille O'Neal, he led his team to the NBA Finals, where they were swept by the Houston Rockets. Despite the sweep Hardaway averaged 24.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 8 assists in the series, while shooting 50% from the field. An injury to star teammate Shaquille O'Neal at the start of the 1995–96 NBA season forced Hardaway to garner more of the scoring load during the first few weeks of the season. He responded by leading the Magic to a 17–5 start. He was named NBA Player of the Month for November by averaging 27.0 points, 6.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1 block per game. He was named a starter in the NBA All-Star Game for the second consecutive season while leading the Magic to a franchise record 60 wins. For the season he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the second consecutive year while averaging 21.7 points, 7.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds and capturing 166 steals which was good for 5th in the league. He also finished third in MVP voting. Hardaway was again the only player in the NBA who averaged at least twenty points and five assists and shot fifty percent on field goals during the regular season. The Magic's playoff run ended in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual champion Chicago Bulls. In the twelve-game playoff run Hardaway averaged 23.3 points, 6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds. The departure of O'Neal during the off-season to the Los Angeles Lakers left Hardaway as the lone star on the Magic heading into the 1996–97 NBA season. Hardaway struggled through an injury-filled season but still managed to be named a starter for the third consecutive time in the NBA All-Star game. During the season, Hardaway, being the team leader, led a coup to fire then coach Brian Hill with only 33 games left during the season. In 59 regular-season games he averaged 20.5 points, 5.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. The Magic managed to make the playoffs with a 45-win season. In the playoffs the Magic fell 0–2 to the Miami Heat in the first round. Hardaway then scored 42 points in game 3 and 41 in Game 4 to force a Game 5 in Miami (becoming the 1st player in NBA history to score 40 points in back to back playoff games when his team scores less than 100 while also being the first player to score 40 points back to back in the playoffs against a Pat Riley-coached team). Hardaway scored 33 points in Game 5 but the Magic fell short. Hardaway finished the playoffs with averages of 31 points, 6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. His playoff scoring average finished a close second to Michael Jordan (31.1). A devastating left knee injury incurred early in the 1997–98 NBA season required surgery and forced him to miss the majority of the season. Despite injury, he was voted to start NBA All-Star Game for fourth straight year, and had six points and three assists in 12 minutes at New York. However, he was criticized for attempting a comeback sooner than expected by playing in the All-Star Game. He played his last game a week after the All-Star game and missed the remainder of the season (Hardaway has since endured another four surgeries on his left knee up to the present that have gradually deteriorated his explosive athletic abilities). In 19 games he averaged 16.4 points, 4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals.
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