Used To Be Worth Every Penny



There will never be another Magic Johnson. He was and still is (at least for me) the greatest point guard to ever set foot on an NBA court. Indeed, Magic did it all: winning, passing, scoring, rebounding, leadership and Showtime. Do not discount the last one; fans tend to want to follow flashy teams because of the possibility involved with seeing something incredible happen (Blake Griffin fans just nodded in approval). If we asked fans and media members which current or former NBA point guard reminded them most of Magic, the answer would probably be Jason Kidd.

Kidd’s rebounding and passing abilities in his prime were just too overwhelming. Back in 2002, we watched him completely dismantle the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals on his way to the NBA Finals:

PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
23.8
10.0
6.3
2.8
.427

Some would argue that he was the best player in the NBA not named Tim Duncan that season; and Shaquille O’Neal was still a dominant force at the time. And as great as Kidd once was, there is another player that seemed to encompass Magic’s game better than the former California point guard: Anfernee Hardaway.

Before the knee injuries, before the interview with John Thompson (I love the fact that Thompson asked Penny if he was a hypochondriac and Hardaway just laughed it off), before being traded to Phoenix and then New York, Penny Hardaway was considered to be the one of the two best guards in the NBA. Indeed, Penny captured All-NBA 1st team honors for his performance during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. Have a look at Hardaway’s averages during those seasons:

Season
Age
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
1994-95
23
20.9
4.4
7.2
1.7
.512
1995-96
24
21.7
4.3
7.1
2.0
.513

Three of the NBA's top 50. Too bad Penny's not part of it.
The physical similarities to the Lakers Hall of Fame point guard were obvious: Hardaway seemed to play out of position given his length (he was 6’7) but his speed with the ball in his hands was uncanny and also his court vision and decision making were quite impressive. But what impressed basketball people early on was the fact that the former Memphis Tiger was able to quarterback the Orlando Magic of 57-25 in 1995 and a record of 60-22 in 1996. Taking down Michael Jordan on his way to the Finals with Shaquille O’Neal certainly helped boost the legend….temporarily.

But then the Magic got swept at the hands of Michael’s Bulls, the Diesel moved to Los Angeles where he won multiple titles and Orlando struggled for a few years to make the playoffs because Penny struggled to remain healthy and just like that his iconic status was gone. No one today remembers that Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan struggled to guard him in the playoffs or that Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan were arguably the best players on the court in the 1996 All-Star Game and that they played on the same team. But that’s the life of an NBA player; the fans are quick to celebrate them and shower them with praise, but the moment they become irrelevant, we completely forget them. I would like to think that Penny Hardaway is worth remembering though, right?

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at Shyne@Sbgorillas.com. You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.


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