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Despite O'Neal's injuries, the Magic finished with a regular season record of 60–22, second in the Eastern conference to the Chicago Bulls, who finished with an NBA record 72 wins.
Orlando easily defeated the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the 1996 NBA Playoffs; however, they were no match for Jordan's Bulls, who swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
He was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie to be voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985.
The Magic finished 41–41, winning 20 more games than the previous season; however, the team ultimately missed the playoffs by virtue of a tie-breaker with the Indiana Pacers.
Toney struggled with drug addiction and was imprisoned for drug possession when O'Neal was an infant. I didn't even play on a team." O'Neal's tendency to make hook shots earned comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, inspiring him to wear the same jersey number as Abdul-Jabbar, 33.
Upon his release, he did not resume a place in O'Neal's life and instead agreed to relinquish his parental rights to O'Neal's stepfather, Phillip A. On his 1994 rap album, Shaq Fu: The Return, O'Neal voiced his feelings of disdain for Toney in the song "Biological Didn't Bother", dismissing him with the line "Phil is my father." However, O'Neal's feelings toward Toney mellowed in the years following Harrison's death in 2013, and the two met for the first time in March 2016, with O'Neal telling him, "I don’t hate you. I had Phil." O'Neal credits the Boys and Girls Club of America in Newark with giving him a safe place to play and keeping him off the streets. However, his high school team did not have a 33 jersey, so O'Neal chose to wear 32 before college. While playing for Brown at LSU, O'Neal was a two-time All-American, two-time SEC Player of the Year, and received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as NCAA men's basketball player of the year in 1991; he was also named college player of the year by AP and UPI.
O'Neal was injured for a great deal of the 1995–96 season, missing 28 games.
He averaged 26.6 points and 11 rebounds per game, made the All-NBA 3rd Team, and played in his 4th All-Star Game.
He is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history.
They won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002.