I would like to formally report a missing person. He stands at 6’7, is roughly 200 pounds and has an aura that is cooler than the other side of the pillow.
He has not been seen in the last few years where he rightfully should reside for the rest of time at 1000 Hall of Fame Ave in Springfield, MA.
His name? Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
Whatever you do, don’t scream stats at me and stutter, “but but but”—his list of accomplishments and what he did for the game of basketball transcends such things, especially for his injury riddled career and what could have been. No injuries… and he’s a sure fire first ballot HOF’er that is easily in the top 10 of all-time discussion.
However, before we start, lets turn back the clock and start from the beginning.
Anfernee Deon Hardaway was born in Memphis, TN on July 18th, 1971—since its been “magic”. Raised by his grandmother– who is responsible for accidentally coining his famous nickname– calling him “pretty” as others heard “Penny” due to her thick southern accent.
He would stay in Memphis for quite some time from prep ball through college ball. During high school, Hardaway averaged a double-double at 36.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg and was named the National High School Player of the year by Parade magazine. Penny was heavily recruited across the nation due to his size at his prospective position (Point Guard), however, his loyalty remained true to the city of Memphis where he decided to stay at home to play for the University of Memphis (formally Memphis State University).
His accolades for his collegiate stint include 2x All-American, Naismith College Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Finalist as well as being named #5 modern PG by collegehoops.com.
After Penny declared for the NBA Draft is where things get exciting.
Leading up to the 1993 NBA Draft, a guy by the name of Chris Webber out of Michigan was the consensus #1 overall pick and the Orlando Magic had the least favorable odds of drawing a top pick, let alone the #1 overall pick in the Draft Lottery, yet still walked away from the drawing with that coveted #1 pick.
Prior to the Draft, Penny decided to play a small role in a movie called “Blue Chips” (great movie by the way). Little did he know, this would lead to Orlando re-thinking their draft strategy. The one and only, Shaquille O’Neal– who currently played for the Orlando Magic—also took a small role in the same movie.
The two stars would often play pick-up games off of the movie set with one another which resulted in giving the two great chemistry and a desire to play alongside one another. After filming, Shaq would continually and heavily recommended drafting Penny to the Orlando Executives. After Shaq’s persuasive tongue and an additional team work out, Penny and Shaq would get what they wanted.
Orlando chose Chris Webber at #1 only to trade him to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and 3 future first round picks (obviously nothing like the modern GSW organization—idiots). From then on, Hardaway began his NBA journey to prove the Magic made the correct move.
Penny took the league by storm with people already dubbing him “the next Jordan”. Yes, he was THAT good… until knee and ankle injuries started to occur.
Prior to said injuries– for a solid 4 to 5 year stint in the NBA– Hardaway was one of the top players, during a time most would consider the “Golden Era” of the League.
During the aforementioned years, Penny averaged 19.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 6.6 apg at the Point Guard position. Those numbers don’t exactly pop out at you, but are very similar to Grant Hill’s prior to him dealing with his own injury riddled career—Hill has a spot in Springfield, MA at the Basketball HOF.
Bottom line, Penny deserves more respect. He beat the GOAT himself (MJ) in the 94-95 Playoff series along with Shaq (we’ll get to Shaq in a bit). Has one of the most heralded basketball shoes from the 90’s by sneaker heads, right below the “Jordan” line. He was a pop culture phenom with his Nike commercials starring a doll named “Lil Penny” voiced over by star Comedian, Chris Rock. He was everywhere, and was destined to be the next “it” thing outside of Michael Jordan.
So much so, that it caused enough controversy over “who’s team” the Orlando Magic was (Shaq’s or Penny’s), leading to Shaq’s departure for the LA Lakers so he could be “the guy” to only have another run-in with another great rookie guard in Kobe Bryant.
Again, Shaq, the unquestioned, unanimous, first ballot HOF’er left due to people not thinking that Orlando was his, but was Penny’s. Take a moment and look into how other guys describe playing against or with Penny in his prime, including Shaq.
His NBA career consisted of 1 NBA Finals appearance, NBA All-Rookie Team, 2x All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Third Team, 4x NBA All-Star selection, topped with 6 career Triple-Doubles. All accomplished in essentially 4-5 years. Wow. A Point Guard at 6’7 with superior athleticism and a solid stroke. He was often compared to MJ and Magic. Was more similar to Magic in size and the way he played, except he was a better jump shooter. Every day that he IS NOT in the HOF is disgrace to the game of basketball.
Post career and Hardaway has still given back to the game of basketball. He has coached middle school, high school, and now his most recent venture, he is coaching at his Alma Mater for the University of Memphis.
#1 on the jersey, and #1 in our hearts. We love you, Penny…. I love you, Penny.