Hardaway, Anfernee "Penny"

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Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway


American basketball player

Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, point guard for the Phoenix Suns, made a name for himself in the NBA while paired with center Shaquille O'Neal in Orlando in the mid-1990s. After O'Neal's departure for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 and several injuries, Hardaway decided to try to restart his career with the Phoenix Suns in 1999.

Childhood Experiences

Hardaway was born in Memphis in 1971. When he was very young, his mother, Fae Hardaway, moved to California and left him in the care of his grandmother, Louise Hardaway. Louise had started life as a sharecropper in Arkansas, but she, her husband, and her children moved to Memphis as soon as they had saved up enough money to buy a house there. Throughout her life, Louise, a cook in Memphis elementary schools, worked hard to do the best she could for her family, including Hardaway. Although the neighborhood in which they lived in Memphis, in the same house into which Louise and her husband had moved in 1950, was becoming more impoverished and dangerous, Louise did her best to prevent Hardaway from becoming involved in crime. The two went to the Early Grove Baptist Church together for many years, and when Louise couldn't go anymore, Hardaway went by himself.

When Hardaway was fourteen, his mother returned to Memphis and he moved back in with her. Although he became an All-American player, he was not concentrating on his schoolwork, and as a result when it came time for him to go to college he could not pass the American College Test (ACT) and had to sit out his freshman year under the rules of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Bylaw 5-1-(j), more commonly known as Proposition 48.

Despite offers from schools across the country, Hardaway had chosen to remain close to home and attend

Memphis State (now the University of Memphis). "Imagine walking around your hometown and everybody thinks you're a dummy," Hardaway told Sport magazine's Darryl Howerton. Even when he went back to his old high school to watch their games, students from the schools they played would sometimes derisively chant "A-C-T! A-C-T!" at him from across the gym.

An Epiphany

Then, the next summer, Hardaway was the victim of an armed robbery that left him with a bullet lodged in his right foot. He was with one of his cousins, in front of his cousin's house in Memphis, when four men jumped out of a car and forced them to lay face-down on the pavement, and then, while one held a pistol to the back of Hardaway's neck, the others took their money, jewelry, and shoes. Hardaway was sure that he was going to die, but instead the robbers just took their loot and ran back to their car. As they ran, one fired indiscriminately behind him. This bullet ricocheted off of the pavement and into Hardaway's foot, where it broke three bones.

As Hardaway lay in the hospital recovering, he ruminated about how fragile life was and how close he had come to losing his future in basketball. Although his foot healed well enough to allow him to play again, Hardaway returned to his classes at Memphis State that fall with a new zeal. By the end of the year, he was on the dean's list.

Onto the NBA

When Hardaway left Memphis State in 1993, he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors but immediately traded to the Orlando Magic for their first-round draft choice, future Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber . Magic fans were gathered in the Orlando Arena to watch a telecast of the draft, and some of them booed Hardaway when they heard of this trade. According to Hardaway, this was the worst day of his life. "How can you feel at home when your hometown fans boo you?" Hardaway said to Sports Illustrated 's Phil Taylor.

The Magic's O'Neal had a great deal to do with Hardaway's acquisition by that team. The two had played together in the Olympic Festival in 1990 and later worked together on the basketball-themed film Blue Chips, where O'Neal developed a great deal of respect for Hardaway's game. The O'Neal-Hardaway pairing was indeed magical: O'Neal, the flamboyant center, was the major attention-getter and scorer, but the less flashy, six-foot-seven-inch point guard Hardaway did an excellent job of feeding him the ball and was a serious scoring threat himself. By the end of his second season, sportswriters were confidently declaring Hardaway one of the greatest basketball players of our time.


1971Born July 18 in Memphis, Tennessee
1990Begins attending Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis)
1992Selected for the USA Basketball Developmental Team
1993Drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but traded to the Orlando Magic on June 30
1994Appears in the film Blue Chips with Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Nolte
1997Undergoes knee surgery December 10 and misses most of the NBA season
1999Acquired by the Phoenix Suns August 5
2000Misses most of 2000-01 season after knee surgeries in May and November

Li'l Penny

Hardaway's fame was increased by a series of advertisements run by Nike that featured Hardaway and a loud-mouthed puppet, voiced by comedian Chris Rock, called Li'l Penny. Li'l Penny was supposedly Hardaway's little brotherlittle being the operative word, since Li'l Penny only stood three feet tall. Li'l Penny, who was also a basketball player, lived the sort of stereotypical professional athlete life that Hardaway himself has usually avoided: parties, women (especially supermodel Tyra Banks), and shameless self-promotion were always at the center of Lil' Penny's persona. Li'l Penny even published a book, Knee High and Livin'Large: The World According to Me. Although these commercials have not run for several years, they are still remembered, particularly for the role that they played in launching Chris Rock's career.

Part IIHeaven Cent

Things began to fall apart for Hardaway after a few years. Orlando fans were still not always kind to him, he had a rocky relationship with the Magic coaches, and in 1996 O'Neal left Orlando for the Los Angeles Lakers. Knee and hamstring injuries limited his playing time in the next few seasons, and by 1999 Hardaway and the Magic were ready to part ways: he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1999.

Hardaway vowed to make a fresh start in Phoenix, even declaring his commitment in ink on his left bicep, where he added the words "Part II" above a previous tattoo that reads "Heaven Cent." Although the Suns have yet to make it to the NBA finals, Hard-away and such talented young players as Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion are working hard to build a strong team, and fans remain hopeful that Hardaway will remain healthy (he had his fourth knee surgery during the 2000-01 season) and lead the team to a championship.

Career Statistics

ORL: Orlando Magic; PHO: Phoenix Suns.

Awards and Accomplishments

1990Parade magazine's Player of the Year
1990Named a First-Team All-American by Basketball Times
1990Olympic Festival (with South team)
1992Great Midwest Conference's "Newcomer of the Year"
1992Great Midwest Conference's "Player of the Year"
1993Finalist for the Naismith award
1993Finalist for the Wooden award
1994Hardaway's #25 jersey retired by Memphis State
1994NBA All-Rookie First All-Star Team
1994Runner-up for Rookie of the Year Award
1994Most Valuable Player of the Schick Rookie Game
1994Orlando Magic's Fans' Choice award
1995NBA Player of the Month for November
1995-96All-NBA First All-Star Team
1995-98Selected for the All-Star game
1996Olympics (with Team USA)
1997All-NBA Third All-Star Team


Address: c/o Phoenix Suns, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85004. Online: www.pennyhardaway.net.



Geffner, Michael P. "Penny and His Thoughts." Sporting News (November 10, 1997): 29-31.

Howerton, Darryl. "After Being Swept by Houston in the NBA Finals, Orlando Guard Anfernee Hardaway Reflects on Yet Another Summer of Discontent." Sport (October, 1995): 59-62.

"One on One with Penny Hardaway." Sporting News (January 7, 2002): 50.

Pierce, Charles P. "The Disappearance of Anfernee Hardaway." Esquire (February, 2000): 56.

Plummer, William, and Grant, Meg. "Penny from Heaven." People (March 28, 1994): 97-99.

Powell, Shaun. "Move Over, Michael: It's Penny's League Now." Sporting News (November 27, 1995): 36.

Taylor, Phil. "A Monumental Beginning." Sports Illustrated (December 1, 1991): 101-102.

Taylor, Phil. "No More Magic." Sports Illustrated (May 15, 2000): 65.

Taylor, Phil. "A Penny Spent." Sports Illustrated (February 13, 1995): 54-57.

Taylor, Phil. "A Touch of Magic." Sports Illustrated (February 13, 1995): 36-38.

Weinberg, Rick. "Penny Well Spent." Sport (June, 1995): 74.


"Anfernee Hardaway Player Info." NBA.com. http://www.nba.com/playerfile/anfernee_hardaway (November 28, 2002).

The Official Penny Hardaway Web Site. http://www.pennyhardaway.net (November 29, 2002).

"One-on-One with Penny Hardaway." NBA.com http://www.nba.com/suns/interactive/hardaway_transcript_021001.html (January 3, 2002).

Sketch by Julia Bauder