To me, Penny Hardaway is the most overlooked and forgotten NBA star of the last twenty years. Maybe the reason he’s completely dismissed is because injuries disrupted what looked to be a Hall of Fame career, or maybe it’s because people just assume he was only good because Shaq was on his team. I’m not really sure on that. What I do know however, is that it’s not easy to be named First Team All NBA and Penny earned that honor twice from 1995-96. The names he joined those two seasons in receipt of the NBA’s highest annual award include Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Micheal Jordan, and John Stockton – that’s it. He was also named Third Team All NBA the following season, was an All Star four times, and helped take the Magic to the NBA Finals where he averaged 25 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds for the series, in a losing effort against the Rockets in 1995.
So what I’m saying is that Penny Hardaway was real good. He averaged 20 or more points from 1994 to 1997, and in each of his six seasons with Orlando, from 1993 to 1999, he averaged at least 16 per game for the year. His career as an NBA superstar effectively ended as a result of injury in 1998, but he proved to be a productive enough role player to play all the way up until 2008 anyways. Though he played parts of seasons with three more teams after being traded by the Magic in 1999, that Orlando jersey with the pinstripes and number one on the back is how we’ll always remember the guy they called Penny. A jersey Dwight Howard said over the weekend deserves to be the first number the Magic organization retires to the Amway Center rafters.
This from the Orlando Sentinel on Monday:
“I think when the season starts – whenever that may be – he should have his jersey put up for what he did not just the team, but for the city,” Howard said. “We all know how great Penny has been for the game of basketball.”
Judging by the reaction of the crowd at Howard’s all-star game Sunday night, he might get some support for the cause.
The crowd went wild when Howard introduced Hardaway to the crowd — it was, by far, the loudest ovation any player received.
“It’s great to have him here, man, it means a lot,” Howard continued. “And for the fans, I know they were happy. Hopefully he gets what he deserves down here in this city.”
I really don’t see why they shouldn’t. I suppose he only played 6 seasons, but in at least two of them he was recognized as the best player at his position at that point in NBA history. Which isn’t easy to do.
Hardaway, who didn’t really have a good relationship with the Magic organization after they traded him, said he hopes to be more a part of both the team and community moving forward too after the game.
“I’ve been watching and I’ve been a fan of these guys for the last few years. I’ve always been a Magic fan. Even when I left, that’s in my blood. I would love to be involved. You know, come down and watch these guys play, come and watch practice, be involved in the community here, just kind of open up. The fans showed me love and I really want to do more things.”
Hopefully one of those things could involve a throwback style Penny commercial with that muppet. I loved those back in the day. Retire his jersey, Orlando, he was a really good player for you.