The Magic Behind Penny Hardaway
LeBron James once said that he idolized Michael Jordan growing up — but that he wanted to be like Penny Hardaway.
FOX Sports NBA analyst Chris Broussard dove into just how good Hardaway was in his "You Kids Don’t Know" series recently, focusing on four major facets of what seemed like it could have been an all-time great career.
First, Broussard pointed to Hardaway’s instant impact in the NBA, which was quickly derailed due to his rotten luck with injuries.
Hardaway was en route to an unforgettable career when a devastating knee injury cut his 1997-98 season short. Broussard saw a bright future ahead in the early days for Hardaway.
"Before injuries derailed his career, Penny was on track to be one of the greatest point guards of all time. I kid you not."
Hardaway’s instant success saw him make the All-NBA 1st Team in his second season, an incredibly rare feat. Since 1967, only Larry Bird, Tim Duncan and Hardaway have earned that distinction in just their second year in the NBA.
"No Jordan. No Shaq. No Kobe. No Magic. No LeBron."
Second, Hardaway – with some help from Orlando Magic teammate Shaquille O’Neal – took down Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1995 playoffs. Few players can make that claim in the '90s.
Sure, you can put an asterisk on the series win because Jordan returned towards the end of the season following his foray into baseball, but Broussard revealed a small tidbit that requires no caveat.
"Michael Jordan actually wore Penny Hardaway’s signature shoe during a game in that series ... It was the only time M.J. ever wore another player’s shoes during a game."
Third, Hardaway’s size and speed were a formidable combination. To hammer home the point, Broussard suggests turning on the highlights.
"Google 'Penny Hardaway dunks on Sam Mitchell' ... Brian Shaw drops it off to Penny who absolutely posterizes Sam Mitchell."
And finally, Lil' Penny puts the cherry on top of Hardaway’s legacy.
Featuring a swagged-out puppet, voiced by the legendary Chris Rock, the Lil' Penny ad campaign became part of the zeitgeist in the '90s.
And to make it all the more interesting, Jamie Hyneman, future co-host of Mythbusters, had a hand in making Lil' Penny come to life.
So the next time the group chat wants a penny for your thoughts on '90s hoops icons, consider yourself well-funded, Broussard argues.
"So, there you have it. All-Star. Olympic gold medalist. Admired by M.J. and LeBron. Advertising legend."
Take that to the bank.