Is Anfernee Hardaway worthy of the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Anfernee Hardaway will be inducted into the Orlando magic’s team hall of fame. The question remains will this star get his due in Springfield?

The Orlando Magic will induct Anfernee Hardaway into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame on Friday. While “Penny” made his mark

Hardaway is among the Mt. Rushmore of Magic players, averaging 19.0 points per game and 6.3 assists per game in six seasons in orlando. He was a four-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA selection in a Magic uniform.

His induction into the team’s hall of fame was not a matter of if, but when. And this being the fourth year of the Hall of Fame, Hardaway becoming the third player to enter the Hall of Fame is more than deserved.

While “Penny” made his mark on the league with the Magic, injuries plagued much of his career. His place in the team hall of fame is a shoo-in, but the Basketball Hall of Fame is a much more complicated case.

Hardaway was a key contributor to getting the Magic to their first NBA Finals in 1995. He helped bring the city of Orlando to the national stage. There is no mystery to why the Orlando Magic will honor Hardaway by inducting him into the organization’s Hall of Fame.

Making the decision to trade away the top overall draft pick in Chris Webber for little -nown Anfernee Hardaway from Memphis State paid off immediately for the Magic. Hardaway helped get the team to their first playoff berth and a 50-win season in his rookie year and their first NBA Finals appearance his second year.

His impact on the Orlando Magic franchise cannot be understated.

Through his 15-year NBA career, Hardaway is most recognized for his time in Orlando. But after suffering a knee injury early in the 1998 season, Hardaway was not quite the same player. After that, the Magic moved on and traded Hardaway to the Phoenix Suns. He would also make stops in New York and Miami.

Hardaway was a four-time All Star, two-time All-NBA first teamer, and a gold medalist during the 1996 Olympics. But all of those accomplishments came in the first five years.

With his window of greatness being so short, there are questions to whether Hardaway deserves to be immortalized with an induction into the Basketball Hall of fame.

Basketball-Reference leaves Hardaway’s Hall of Fame probability at 28.7 percent. It would seem he has an uphill climb to achieve enshrinement in Springfield.

During his peak with the Magic, Hardaway was viewed as the next guard to take over from Michael Jordan. He was that great.

As a 6-foot-7 point guard, Hardaway drew comparisons to Magic Johnson with his talents. He was that great.

Had injuries not plagued him, there would be no question Hardaway is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame.

But here we are, 10 years after retirement and five years after being eligible, Hardaway still has not gotten the call. And it is not likely to come.

Hardaway was an icon for a short time. His signature shoes sold more than Michael Jordan’s during his playing days. Hardaway became the featured athlete for the Nike brand and even had an alter ego, Lil’ Penny. Hardaway was a star in every sense of the word. Along with that stardom comes attention to the NBA.

Many casual basketball fans were drawn to the game by a young up-and-coming team from Orlando. A team that could potentially unseat the dominant Chicago Bulls.

Hardaway being a monster athlete and a leader on that Orlando team had to play a role in that attraction to the league. Even today many fans will say Penny was the reason they fell in love with basketball.

During his best season with the Magic, Hardaway averaged 21.7 points, 7.1 assists, 2.0 steals and 4.3 rebounds per game. After 15 seasons in the league, Hardaway still ended up averaging 15.2 points, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 4.5 rebounds per game for his career.

The greatness he showed early on may not have lasted his entire career, but for that short time, Hardaway was the man.

His time with the Magic was special on its own and should not be forgotten.

Because of his size, Hardaway would frequently switch from point guard to shooting guard on the defensive end to guard opponents primary scorer and then back to point guard to take advantage of smaller players in the post. He was one of the first truly versatile guards. Teams did not know how to handle him on either end.

Hardaway was also a point guard who could create his own shot and looked to do so. He did not merely just distribute the ball. Patterned after Hardaway, we now see guards like Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who can score at will, but also have great vision to set up teammates.

Maybe it is just a matter of time for Anfernee Hardaway. He has already been retired for 10 years. Another 10 years should not pass without him getting consideration for a spot in Springfield. Maybe the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame ceremony will stir up some national conversation and give Hardaway some consideration for the future.

Either way, the Orlando Magic are doing a great thing by honoring one of its franchises truly great players by inducting Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway into their Hall of Fame.

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