When you hear people talk about their favorite players of all time, most of the time you will hear the same names; Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James etc. etc.
When I tell you my favorite player, some of you will think I'm crazy?! Mine is Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
I have always been an Orlando Magic fan. From the moment the team joined the NBA in 1989, I was in love with the team. Not that it was the best team, but something attracted me.
The team went from becoming an expansion team to a championship contender fast. And it even drafted well in their first years. With the selections of Nick Anderson, Scott Skiles (who still holds the record for most assists in 1 game with 30) and Dennis (3D) Scott, the foundation was set. Then in 1992, Orlando got the first pick and selected Shaquille O’Neal from LSU. Orlando missed the playoffs that year based on a tie-breaker.
Then the impossible happened. With a 1,2 percent chance of selecting number 1 again; Orlando got lucky. They got to pick first again. And with Chris Webber of Michigan projected next to Shaquille O’Neal every Magic fan went berzerk. So on draft night, Orlando selected Chris Webber with the number 1 pick. Shawn Bradley went second to the Philadelphia 76'ers, and Anfernee Hardaway out of Memphis went 3rd to the Golden State Warriors, and that was quite a surprise. But then every Magic fan was shocked before the 4th pick was announced, when David Stern (the commissioner) went on stage and announced Orlando traded Chris Webber for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. The biggest prospect coming out of college that year traded for a skinny guard from Memphis. What the heck was going on??
But once the season started I couldn’t believe what I saw. A guard that could post up like a power forward, could run the break like Magic Johnson and with versatility like a Scottie Pippen. With other words the total package.
In 1994-1995 they reached the finals where they eventually lost to the Houston Rockets, and after that finals, Shaq eventually left for the Lakers.
So it became Penny’s team, and they still reached the playoffs. Penny dropped 42 points and 41 points in games 3 and 4 in the first round against the Miami Heat, which eventually lost 3-2 (yes the first round was the best of 5 at that time)
The season after that Penny got a lot of injuries on his knee and eventually got traded to the Phoenix Suns to form what was called backcourt 2000. But again injuries derailed his career and the promises expected were never reached. He played for the New York Knicks and Miami Heat and even got back traded to Orlando, but they immediately waived him.
Such a great career, derailed by injuries. It’s unfortunate in my opinion. I’m such a big fan of him I got his jersey tattooed on my arm last year.
You know why his nickname is Penny? His grandma couldn’t pronounce pretty because of her southern accent, so everyone thought she called him Penny
But when I watch highlights of him (and I do that a lot), what appears on my screen is not pretty but more close to perfection