Hardaway, Anfernee (Penny) 1971–
Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway 1971–
Professional basketball player
Anointed by Michael Jordan as the next great guard and team leader in NBA history, Anfernee Hardaway (affectionately known as “Penny”) did not receive a warm welcome from the fans when he first came to the Orlando Magic. In fact, they booed him—despite the fact that the head of NBA scouting, Marty Blake, admitted to a New York Times reporter that Hardaway was the “best player in the draft in sheer talent and ability.” The Orlando fans had wanted Chris Webber instead, a University of Michigan basketball player who will long be remembered for calling a timeout his team did not have and costing them a chance at the NCAA National Championship.
Hardaway grew up with his grandmother in Memphis, Tennessee; and he has no recollection of his father, who left the family around the time of Anfernee’s birth. His mother, who decided to pursue a career as a singer and left for California, gave him a unique name so that he would know he was like nobody else—he was special. Although Anfernee saw his mother every Christmas, it was his grandmother who made the difference in his life.
Hardaway raised him with loving discipline, building his character and self-esteem by demanding a lot from him and giving him a tremendous amount of love and support. Hardaway remembers that it “was hard. She was real tough on me … very strict in everything.” She put a greater emphasis on academics than athletics, demanding that he earn all As and Bs and that he finish his homework before turning on the television. There was a chore list he had to work his way through, and of course no foul language was allowed.
Hardaway also had to get up at 6:30 each morning, but this may have been because in the crowded household—sometimes as many as nine family members shared the “shotgun shack” that his grandmother maintained as a home—he had to sleep in the same bed as his grandmother until the third grade. After that he continued to sleep in her room. Of course it gave her the chance to keep a close eye on him. She was also aided in this by the fact that she worked as the cook at the same school that Hardaway attended.
Hardaway raised him with loving discipline, building his Hardaway obviously liked Memphis. He stayed there to go to college when, because of his basketball skills (he
Born Anfernee Deon Hardaway, July 18, 1971, in Memphis, TN; son of Fae Hardaway. Education: Treadwell High School, Memphis, TN; attended University of Memphis, 1990-93.
Professional basketball player, signed with the Orlando Magic, 1993.
Selected awards: Member, 1996 U.S. Olympic Team; First Team Selection, All NBA All Star Team, 1994-95, 1995-96; First Team, All Rookie NBA Team, 1993-94; Parade Magazine’s National High School Player of the Year, 1990.
Addresses: Office—c/o Orlando Magic, 1 Magic Place, Orlando, FL 32801.
was Parade Magazine s National High School Player of the Year), he could have gone almost anywhere. His friends were there, and it was there that he first was labeled Penny. Some of his childhood friends claim that at first he was called “Puitty,” a regional pronunciation of the word, “Pretty.” He had always been handsome (his mother even thought he might have a career as a model); but somehow as the name spread it evolved into Penny, which has stuck.
At the University of Memphis, still better known by its former name as Memphis State, Hardaway was such a standout that he was being compared to Magic Johnson by the end of his junior year; he decided to skip his senior year and go straight to the pros. He caught the attention of NBA scouts and coaches not just for his physical ability, but for his intelligence on the court. One NBA general manager said of him on the eve of the draft in which Anfernee was picked third, “If I’m picking first, I’d go for Hardaway. He’s big, with great knowledge of the game, a player who almost instinctively makes the right decision every time.”
Hardaway’s decision to leave college and Memphis one year before his eligibility was up may have had something to do with his being held up at gun point outside a family member’s house. A stray bullet, fired seemingly at random as the robbers made their getaway, hit Hardaway in the foot, breaking three bones. Luckily they healed cleanly, and his game was not adversely affected, but the incident taught him that he could never rely just on basketball. “It taught me you’re not going to live forever.” With that behind him, he decided to head for the NBA.
From the beginning, Hardaway wanted to go to Orlando and play with Shaq O’Neal. Orlando had the first pick in the draft, but as everyone knew they were planning to pick Michigan’s highly touted forward, Chris Webber, with their number one choice. Hardaway worked hard to convince the Magic to allow him to come work out for them. Finally, just 24 hours before the teams started picking, he got his chance. The workout went well. Hardaway knew he had impressed the Magic general manager and coach, but all his efforts seemed for nothing when the next day the Magic used the first pick in the draft to choose Chris Webber—just as expected.
Hardaway must have been disappointed. He was picked third by Golden State, a team about as far away from his home and grandmother as he could get. It was not long before the news came through: Orlando had traded Webber to Golden State for Hardaway and three first-round draft choices, those of 1996, 1998, and 2000. Hardaway had his wish. Orlando wanted him, but knew they could get more trading him to Golden State than if they drafted him outright themselves. Today, it seems clear Orlando made the right trade. Even in a one-on-one trade, without the additional draft choices, the Magic came out ahead. Hardaway has had the best career of any young player in the NBA, while Webber has been plagued by injury and disappointment; and with the added draft choices, Orlando really pulled off a coup.
Hardaway’s professional career has been astounding. In his first season he averaged 16 points per game and over six assists. He also was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He was the only rookie in the year to start all 82 of his team’s games. Although Orlando was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, Hardaway personally elevated his game, raising his scoring average to over 18 points per game and his assists to over seven per game. The next season he raised his averages to 19.5 points and 7.2 assists per game. He was a first team NBA All-Star, and he shot an amazing (for a guard) 51 percent from the field.
More spectacularly he led his team to the NBA Finals against Houston. The Magic got crushed in the finals, but again Hardaway was their one bright spot, averaging 25.5 points per game in the short final series. To show how important he was to the team, he missed four games during the season due to illness, and the Magic only won one of those games. The next season when O’Neal missed 32 games due to an injury, Orlando won 23 of those games with Hardaway leading the team. Hardaway was truly the heart and soul of the young Orlando club. Of course Hardaway was a starting All-Star again, scoring 12 points and helping with 11 assists in the East’s cause. During the season he also passed the 1,000 assist mark in a game versus Sacramento.
Despite Hardaway’s leadership, his third professional season was a disappointing year for the Magic. Expected to make the finals or at least give the Chicago Bulls a competitive run, the Magic were swept by the Bulls in the Conference Final. Hardaway was magical as always, averaging over 20 points per game, and capping his best season ever; but O’Neal hardly showed up, and then an injury to Horace Grant virtually removed any chance the Magic had. The Bulls rolled, and in the offseason, O’Neal decided to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still O’Neal and Hardaway got one more chance to play together: as members of the Dream Team, the second U.S. Olympic team comprising NBA players. Winning a Gold Medal together in the last moments of the Olympics must have been a bittersweet moment for the two young men who probably at one time fully expected to win an NBA Championship together. Hardaway must now look to an uncertain future as Orlando tries to build a championship team around him; however, there can be little doubt that Anf ernee Hardaway will be up to playing his part, no matter what that might be.
Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1993, sec. 4, p. 10.
Ebony, April 1996, p. 110.
New York Times, December 13, 1995, p. B18.
Orlando Magic Press Guide, summer 1996.
USA Weekend, February 9-11, pp. 4-6.
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