Hey! Whatever Happened To Penny Hardaway?

By Brian Taylor

Last June the Miami Heat won their first piece of Larry O’Brien hardware on the shoulders of “The Big NBA” Shaquille O’Neal and up-and-coming basketball prodigy Dwyane Wade. One of the main questions when the Diesel landed in South Beach was whether or not he could avoid another diva-like battle for the spotlight, like his messy divorce with “Bean” out in L.A. O’Neal, being of sound mind and older body realized that if he wanted another ring he’d have to defer a bit to the team’s other star. He did it in L.A. for a while, garnering rings with Zen Master/Warlock/Head Coach Phil Jackson, but Tinseltown wasn’t the first place Shaq had beef with a teammate. Before Wade, before Kobe, there was Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

When the Milwaukee Bucks first entered the league, they encountered the typical expansion doldrums until they won a coin toss (like the Izod bucket, the draft was sooooo old school) and landed Lew Alcindor (a.k.a. Kareem Abdul Jabbar). In their third season of existence the Bucks landed an NBA title. A similar situation happened in Orlando where one of the new kids on the block were the Magic (coming in that expansion wave that introduced the Hornets, Timberwolves and Heat). The Magic struggled for years until they won the Shaq Sweepstakes in 1992, and (mysteriously) won the draft lottery again in 1993, picking Chris Webber, but sending him West for Golden State’s pick, Hardaway.

In Orlando a revolution took place. No longer a just team with sparkly jerseys, a leprechaun for a point guard, and stripper-like cheerleaders, the Magic turned into a legitimate, contending team, thanks to the Diesel and the jaw-dropping, ridiculous play of Penny Hardaway.

The wild thing about Penny was that at 6’7”, he had the height of a small forward, but played like a speedy point guard with a dash of Magic Johnson thrown in for good measure. He was slowly becoming the prototypical, new-era type point guard – one that could post you up down low because of his height, or burn you on the break, Steve Nash style.

Penny also brought a ton of flair to Orlando. Everyone knew about the hulking, bionic, 9% bodyfat O’Neal on the low post, but Hardaway was all about insane no-look passes, crossovers, and disgusting dunks. I still think that his alternate road jersey was one of the illest of all time (the electric blue with pinstripes, and of course the “#1”). Who can forget the first post-Jordan playoffs, where Penny and Pippen clashed in the East? He even had his own caricature in the Chris Rock voiced “Lil’ Penny”. If it wasn’t for Nick Anderson gagging at the free throw line in ’95 Penny might have a ring now.

The trouble started when allegedly Shaq realized he was number 2 on the squad with Hardaway now garnering the infamous “next Jordan” tag from the experts. In 1996, after Penny won Olympic gold, O’Neal played the “him-or-me” card and lost, turning free agent and signing for a gazillion bucks with the Lakers breaking up what could’ve been an Eastern Conference dynasty.

From that point on things got worse for Orlando as a team and Penny as a player. In the 1997-’98 season Penny wrecked his knee and had surgery but played in an All-Star game he was voted into anyway despite never playing any regular season games for the Magic that year. This did not sit well with Orlando’s management and as a result, he was shipped to the Valley of the Sun, for Pat Garrity, Danny Manning (remember him?) and picks.

For a hot minute Penny did ok in Phoenix, taking them to the playoffs only to lose to the eventual punks, I mean champs, the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. After continued knee problems, Penny tried his trade at the World’s Most Famous Arena in New York, which was a disaster, before going back to Orlando and getting waived by the team.

If he hadn’t been hurt, I still think he’d be one of the league’s stars today. Check out this handy little link if you want to see Penny in action.



22 thoughts on “Hey! Whatever Happened To Penny Hardaway?

  1. I was at alot of those games and let me tell you Penny was the “Man” back then. Problems arose when he started beliving everthing that was written about him. Who can forget the dunk over Patrick Ewing that was downright nuts. His decline started the minute Pat williams let ShaQ walk to L.A. and Penny was supposed to keep us in contention. Forget It. After he realized he was only free’d up because shaq was being triple teamed all the time he never was the same player. Then of course his knees gave out and that was pretty much all she wrote for a once great 2 guard. But the next JOrdan he was not, and there never will be. Remember Jordan did it with Bill Cartwright, I mean c’mon then luc longely., give me a break Jordans is, was and always will be “the MAN”.

  2. Yeah, whenever I see highlights of Anfernee (that is a cool unique name!) dropping ridiculous dimes it makes me want to try it out myself. For every Penny, at least there’s a Grant Hill, looking pretty good now by putting in the hard work in rehab.

  3. This summer I was watching some of Orlando’s game when they had Penny and Shaq and played in the NBA Finals. I jumped out of my chair in amazement at some of the plays those two hooked up for – simply amazing!

  4. Although I was just getting serious into the NBA when Penny was in his best days, I still made sure that I bought a Penny Hardaway Magic jersey as soon as I got my own credit card. Bring that jersey to a pick up game and it’s instant respect (amongst those who realize that it’s NOT a T-Mac jersey)

  5. Just a correction to your post. You said Penny didn’t play any regular season games for the Magic in the 97-98 season. That’s not true, Penny actually played 19 games that season (he started 15 of them). Not much but definitely not 0 like you said.

  6. I don’t think the departure of Shaq was the decline of Penny. Remember the year the Magic played the Heat in the playoffs after Shaq left? Penny was down right dominating averaging something like 35 points the series. I remember quotes from players like PJ Brown, he said something along the line of “This guy is the closes i’ve seen to Jordan”.

    Too bad he had the knee problems…

  7. penny now back with shaq in miami. it wont be the good ol days buy maybe a reminbder of the past will come in 1 highlight or 2.

    to correct jeff on the first post. Penny wasnt a 2 guard. he was the point. their starting lineup was as follows

    pg – penny
    sg – nick anderson
    sf – dennis scott
    pf – horace grant
    c – shaq

  8. Penny’s a 2/3 these days and he isn’t even close to the athlete he used to be. Lacking a reliable three, his main advantage will be filling in while Wade’s out and for a veteran hand on the point when Miami wakes up and realize that Smush Parker is too dense to understand how to do anything but drive without subtlety and put up threes.

    He’ll be a nice like 7th or 8th man if he can be healthy and who knows? Maybe he’ll show Dorell a thing or two.

  9. I have been a Penny Hardaway fan since his first day in Orlando….He is not Jordan…No he is not…But he is Anfernee…I remember those Jordan vs P. Hardaway – that classic steal…pass to H. Grant to beat the Jordan Bulls…the clutch shots in Orlando uniform…that insame behind the back pass making MJ flight up there…In your face Ewing dunk…trying to collect every card of him…and after a while of silence…Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway make some noise again…an other chance with the name of Miami Heat = together again with Shaq and Wade as a bonus…feeling 100%…we about to see what we havent seen in years….Are we ready???

  10. A big fan of Penny. Penny on Miami changes their dynamic considerably. Now they have a super-solid guard rotation with Wade, Penny and Jason. We’ll see what happens this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a Boston Miami Eastern Conference Finals in 07-08

  11. that’s right thien!penny was the man.remember 96-97:shaq is a laker and nick horace dennis and penny played only 240 games.penny missed 23 games with 7-16 record.but with penny the magic were another team 38-21…and this story repeated with the suns.penny makes team better!

  12. i didn’t Like Penny, when Michael Jordan was in the nba..because for me,penny is the strongest rival for Jordan..i’m the fan of Jordan..if in 96-98,Jordan isn’t back,Penny must have a ring now..but,i really don’t like young player..cause, they are so cocky..But now….Penny is a veteran player..i think he is down to earth now….and he is back…and there is no Jordan anymore…i’m sure Penny will make a surprise for Miami Heat ..I am you fan Now,Penny!!!Go beat the LeBron James and Friends….!!and of course,beat the NBA Champion “THE SPURS” also….GO PENNY!!!

  13. for me…Penny…still no.1…in a great assist….it always “wow”. i can’t wait to see Penny again. if he win this season as world champions. i can die anytime.

  14. I have always been a Penny Hardaway fan. Like you said Erik but the opposite, I was not a big fan of jordan because they swept the magic in the eastern conference finals. One thing I do know one cannot help, but respect Penny. He has taken more slander to his name than anyone in the NBA ever! All for being hurt. Which was obviously the case no one fakes an injury for six years. Even more important no one Goes from being GREAT one year to non-existent in a 2 year spand. I am all for Penny and I will catch any game I can. I plan on attending at least three of his games and I am not from Florida. I live in Memphis (his home town) and if you come here everyone feels the same way I do. And some young super star athlete may be cocky, but i never sensed in that in Hardaway his younger days. When I was kid he was the only Player who took time out of warming up to take a picture with me, and the magic were the visiting team! All decent guy i must say. I wish him all the luck in the world this season (not saying that he needs luck.) Go Penny!

  15. why you, americans, call yourselfs “america”? america is a continent, no a country. besides that, why do you selfs call the nba finals champion “world champion”? world? USA is not the world.

  16. Ratapaloma,

    Why don’t you learn proper English before you criticize “Americans.” Besides, this is about Penny Hardaway, not your angry foreigner schtick.

  17. Also, I want to add that Penny was THE MAN back in the day. He had it all, jump shot, hops, handle, size… you get the picture. My friends and I wanted to be just like him. Maybe it was the timing, but I always respected Jordan and knew he was great but I wanted to be Penny when I was playing youth basketball. Period.

  18. I’ve been his fan since I was in HS back in 1995..and I’d have to agree that he will still be one of the best guards in the league if he hadn’t been hurt…reading your article, I do miss seeing him play…

  19. Jordan said himself that Penny was the next him and he was….stop hating on him cuz the critics could not play penny one on one 2day…..someone kicked him and caused the intial knee injury….dam the azz that did, just like the azz that kicked Ricky Williams, playing dirty. You can’t take away Penny’s accomplishments. Enough said…Tyson was the man, and no one can take away his boxing accomplishments.

  20. The first time I saw Penny Hardaway play was when my uncle showed me the ’95 Eastern Conference Finals that he had taped, he’s been my favorite player since. But Penny Hardaway, as hard as it is to say it, was getting self-centered and arrogant when the attention started to go to him, and as you’ve noticed Shaq doesn’t like dealing with swollen-headed co-partners (Kobe). Regardless, the magic were stupid for letting him go, all they had to do was get someone to sit down and talk to Penny and the rest would’ve been history.

  21. Such a shame to witness a super-star go down like that…was hoping so much to see Penny shine again in Miami, but that’s not going to happen anymore. I don’t get Pat’s decision to rid Penny for L Jackson. Jackson’s not even getting any minitues on the floor and Miami’s in the worst slump of team history. I think Penny is the kind of player who if given the trust will rise to it. I hope he will find another chance again somewhere.

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