TBP of the Month from The CoLA: Penny Hardaway (January 2015 Edition)

TBP=Throw Back Player

If you were a basketball fan at all in the early to mid-90s, then you were ALL IN with Penny Hardaway and his alter-ego “Lil Penny”.

Hardaway grew up playing basketball in Memphis for Treadwell High School, he averaged 36.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.9 steals, and 2.8 blocks as a senior and was named Parade Magazine National High School player of the year.  His terrific high school career earned him a scholarship to Memphis State (now Memphis University), where the legend of Penny started to fully form itself.

Hardaway had to sit out his Freshman season due to being academically ineligible. He eventually would graduate making the Dean’s List with a 3.4 grade point average as an education major. During his freshman season, Hardaway was robbed at gunpoint and then struck by a stray bullet in the foot, putting his career in jeopardy.

Penny would continue on to the NBA and become the 3rd overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft, selected by the Golden State Warriors who immediately traded him to the Orlando Magic for the rights to Chris Webber and 3 future first round picks.  This trade changed the landscape of the NBA for everyone in the 90s and would always connect the two players forever.

Orlando Magic fans were celebrating and salivating about the idea of Chris Webber, a hybrid point-forward with Magic Johnson-like court vision and Charles Barkley-like abilities to score, matching up in the front court with Shaquille O’Neal.  But the draft day celebration would quickly be halted when C-Webb was traded away for the 6’7″ Point Guard out of Memphis State that no one seemingly knew about.

In hind-sight, neither player would end up reaching their enormous perceived potential in the NBA.  Even though both players took the league by storm and changed  the way their respective positions were played, both Webber and Hardaway never seemed to completely become the Hall of Famers they were perceived to be.

Never-the-less, Penny Hardaway was a one of a kind Point Guard, combining size, strength, athleticism and natural scoring ability with supreme court vision and crunch-time, big play ability.  Penny was Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen all rolled into one coach’s dream of a player.

And with the help of his alter-ego, “Lil Penny” and Chris Rock’s comedic view on Tyra Banks, basketball and Nike shoes, Penny Hardaway become a sports icon.

Penny’s career was cut short by injury, his foot never seemed to heal completely from the gunshot and eventually transitioned into back and knee problems.  He technically played 13 seasons in the NBA, but really was only the true Penny Hardaway from 1993 to the early 2000s.  Thus leaving his career stats not quite as gawdy as you would imagine.

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And here’s more “Lil Penny” for you, just cause I miss him.

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