For a substantial period, Anfernee Penny Hardaway was a superstar in the NBA. Penny was possibly second to Michael Jordan in the superstar pecking order during a stint in the 90s. Penny is one of the few players to receive a signature line of sneakers from Nike. In honor of his birthday today, learn more about Anfernee Penny Hardaway.
Penny Hardaway played college basketball for the University of Memphis. Currently, Hardaway is the team’s head coach. Penny Hardaway reminded a lot of people of Magic Johnson when he played college basketball for Memphis. He was a taller guard who could handle the ball, pass, and rebound. He was also a prolific scorer. Penny was incredibly versatile when he played for Memphis. The hype surrounding the young star was high.
Shaq & Penny
Hardaway was originally drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 1993 NBA Draft. He was then almost immediately traded to the Orlando Magic. The previous year, the Orlando Magic drafted Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq dominated during his first season in the NBA. But the Big Man needed a ball handler and passer to pair with. When Shaq & Penny joined forces, they were favorably compared to Kareem Abdul -Jabbar and Magic Johnson. The expectations were that Shaq & Penny could be one of the all-time great guard/center combos. The impact the pair made was instant. The Orlando Magic won a then franchise record 50 games during Shaq and Penny’s first season as teammates. They also would appear in the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history. Penny’s selfless style of play was inspiring. He was exciting to watch, but he never came across as someone enamored with the spotlight. His focus on winning, and his team, is why so many compared him to Magic Johnson at an early age.
Filling The Jordan Void
Penny Hardaway’s rookie season in the league was the first season of Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Penny and his electrifying play were able to partially fill the void MJ left. His popularity was growing, and he was one of the most popular players in the league during his rookie season. By his second year in the league, Hardaway and the Orlando Magic were arguably the greatest show in basketball. They were not just entertaining…the Magic were legitimate championship contenders.
Penny’s signature line with Nike was a big part of his appeal, and now his legend. Nike of course knew the value of a signature basketball talent like Hardaway better than anyone. Outside of Michael Jordan, Nike only gave two players signature sneakers before Penny - David Robinson and Charles Barkley. The Air Max Penny 1 debuted in 1995. The shoe helped to usher in a new era for Nike and showed to the world that Penny Hardaway was truly a star.
The Future Ends
The Orlando Magic made the NBA Finals in 1995. They were swept however by the more experienced team, the Houston Rockets. Shaq and Penny had a strong core of young talent around them. Despite the Finals loss in 1995, the future seemed bright for the duo and the franchise. Sadly, there were chemistry, and personality issues, between the Magic teammates. Shaq would leave the Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers and would create a dynasty with Kobe Bryant.
Anfernee Penny Hardaway
Injuries, the loss of Shaq, and other issues beyond the control of Penny would stop him from reaching his full potential in the NBA. Thanks to his sneaker line, incredible highlights that kids still watch on YouTube, and his coaching duties in Memphis, Hardaway is still a legend today.
Happy Birthday, Penny!
- Adam C. Better
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