If you were a fan of basketball in the 90’s, then you absolutely know the name, Anfernee Hardaway or maybe you knew him by his nickname, “Penny”. Penny Hardaway was the closest thing to Magic Johnson in the 90’s, as he was a 6’7 point guard, with a beast of a center in Shaquille O’neal. The rookie shined for the Orlando Magic averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while leading them to their first playoff berth and 50 win season. The next year, Hardaway was named to the eastern conference all-star team and the all-NBA team, while taking the Magic to the NBA finals, even though they were swept by the Houston Rockets.
His third year is when the super stardom took off as he made his second all-star game, received his own Nike shoes, starred in his own commercials featuring Chris Rock, was third in MVP voting and won a gold medal with the 1996 Olympic team. Penny Hardaway was starting to take over the NBA as Michael Jordan was slowly on his way out.
The super stardom carried over to the following years, even though injuries slowed down Hardaway’s progress, fans still voted him to third and fourth all-star games. The couple of knee injuries made the Magic trade Penny to the Phoenix Suns where he averaged 17 ppg and 20 ppg during the playoffs. Eventually losing to the Lakers in the semi-finals, another knee surgery kept him out of the next season. A few years later and a career average with the Suns of 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, he was traded to the New York Knicks with Stephon Marbury. The two did their best by getting the Knicks to the playoffs but ended up losing in the first round. Hardaway battled a couple more knee surgeries during the next couple years eventually being traded back to the Magic. The Magic waived him and he signed a minimum deal with the Miami Heat in the off-season. Midway through the season he was waived and his NBA career abruptly ended.
His career lasted 16 years with averages of 15 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. The numbers don’t do him justice, as a lot of us remember the good times of Penny Hardaway. It’s sad that 6 knee surgeries didn’t allow him to be the player we all knew he could be.
The present brings Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway back home, but in a good way. I recently watched a special on ESPN E:60 about Penny Hardaway and a close friend, Desmond Merriweather, who is battling colon cancer while coaching a middle school basketball team. Hardaway teamed up with Merriweather to lead the boy’s to numerous victories over the next couple of years. This is where I let E:60 tell this amazing story….
Penny Hardaway may have been one of the best basketball players to play the game but this may be his greatest gift to the game of basketball.