Penny Hardaway RumorsAll NBA Players
Before injuries derailed his career, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was one of the most exciting, promising young players in the league. He made four All-Star teams and three All-NBA teams in his first six seasons with the Orlando Magic before being dealt to the Suns, where his body slowly deteriorated. According to Hardaway, the offcourt persona is an essential part of being an NBA superstar, and that’s why he thinks San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard doesn’t deserve the title [of superstar]. Hardaway explained his position on Sirius XM’s NBA show, “Bottomline.”
Durant: Let me clear this up, because a lot of people talk to me about [it and say] “I took a shot at him on Twitter.” If you go back and look at when I posted that, I posted that later in the month, you want to know why? Penny Hardaway came out and said, “I would love to play for the Heat, I think I could help them win the championship.” And I’m like, “Come on, Penny. You’ve been out of the game. I played against you my rookie year, it’s like three years later, man. What are you doing?” But it was a fake article. So I tweeted that. And now everybody’s like, “Well, you was criticizing LeBron.” I signed an extension right after LeBron decided to go to Miami and a lot of people asked me about that, I said, “Cool, for [the Heat]. We play them three times, I can’t wait to play them, it’s going to be cool.”
“When KD came up as a free agent, I was like, if he left, it would be like, for Russ, it would be like me and Shaq,” Hardaway, 45, recently told The Vertical. “That’s what happened. Russ has to carry the load. He has a nice supporting cast still left, because they had a nice team. So he’s not strictly by himself, but he has to do a lot. He has to do a ton.” Long before their careers were linked by similar circumstances, Hardaway viewed Westbrook as his favorite NBA player, drawn to Westbrook’s unrelenting motor and menacing scowl. “No doubt,” Hardaway told The Vertical. “Russ is a unique player, because he gives it his all every possession, to me. Of course, I’m not on the inside, but from what I see, the energy that he plays with, the passion that he plays with, the aggression, I love it.”
Where coaching leads him, Hardaway isn’t sure but he can eventually see himself in the NBA or college ranks. The profession has already taken him where he could never go as a player, as he led the Mustangs to a state title last season, his first as a head coach. “It is addictive. It’s very addictive,” Hardaway told The Vertical about coaching. “But there is more to it, because we’re invested into the kids. I have a lot of guys depending on me to teach. Once I started it, I said I’m going to go ahead and finish it.”
Hardaway, O’Neal, Anderson, Horace Grant and Dennis Scott led the team to the 1995 NBA Finals, where they were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets. But O’Neal left via free agency in 1996. And Hardaway followed in 1999. His departure was acrimonious. On Friday, Hardaway said he wishes he never left. “That was just an emotional kid just being spoiled,” Hardaway said. “That’s not even my element or my norm. I usually try to fight through things, and I didn’t fight through. And I regret that to this day. I would have cherished [it] more here because we had some really awesome teams, some super teams, and I took it for granted. I thought we were going to be together for the rest of our careers. I never thought Shaq would leave, and then after that, everything just fell apart.”
It still pains Penny Hardaway to think about what might have been. What if Shaquille O’Neal never left the Orlando Magic to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers? What if Hardaway hadn’t gotten hurt? And what if Hardaway didn’t leave the Magic to join the Phoenix Suns? The mid-1990s Magic had that much promise. “Every time I watch the footage, man, I just get tears in my eyes because there’s always that what if if we would have all stayed together,” Hardaway said.