Documentary Executive Produced by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway Looks at the Rise and Fall of the Orlando Magic in the Mid-90s
ESPN Films’ Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 documentary series returns with “This Magic Moment” on Thursday, April 14, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. The film will chronicle the birth and rapid growth of the Orlando Magic franchise in the 1990s, with the help of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.
They were a fairy tale team in a fairy tale setting, with a cast of larger-than-life characters and a Cinderella plot line that featured magical Ping-Pong balls and a talking puppet. For four years in the mid-1990s, Orlando offered one of the most captivating shows in the NBA, both on and off the court.
Directed by Gentry Kirby (“Abby Head On”) and Erin Leyden (“The 99ers,” “Abby Head On”), “This Magic Moment” explores those heady days when Shaq and Penny ruled not only pro basketball, but popular culture as well. The film features in-depth testimony from the two stars as well as the executives, coaches, teammates, observers and opponents who were there for the stardust—and the breaking of the spell. Laced with archival footage, “This Magic Moment” is not only a trip down memory lane, but also a tale of what might have been.
“Orlando will always mean a lot to me,” O’Neal said. “Making this film truly made me realize what could have been. We were young, we were having fun, and the fans were coming out in full force. I can only imagine how much we could have done if we stayed together.”
Added Hardaway: “The memories I have of my time playing with the Magic and Shaq will last a lifetime. It might not have ended the way we all wanted, but the journey was legendary and it was great to reflect on that while producing this piece.”
Hardaway and O’Neal earned All-NBA honors as they helped make the Orlando Magic one of the top teams in the league in 1995 and 1996 before O’Neal left for the Lakers. The film will premiere at the 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival on the same evening of the ESPN debut. Advance film screener available for press upon request.
“It’s been fun for us to have Shaq and Penny involved and to give their inside account of how it all came together and how it all fell apart,” said ESPN Films vice president and executive producer John Dahl. “It’s easy for that story to get lost in the dominance of the Bulls in the 90’s and what happened in LA after Shaq went to the Lakers, but the Orlando Magic captured the imagination of so many fans at the time.”
Additional information including film clips and director statements and bios will be available on the 30 for 30 website espn.com/30for30; Follow 30 for 30 on Facebook (facebook.com/espn30for30) and Twitter (@30for30). 30 for 30 is presented by Mini Cooper.
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality documentary films showcasing some of the most compelling stories in sports. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. Additional projects from ESPN Films include the decorated series 30 for 30 Shorts, Nine for IX and SEC Storied among others.