What’s good MrSoldOut family? I know I’ve been out of the loop for a minute handling some things but I’m back! Today we are going to take a look at a subject that is constantly debated and I was low key bated into having a debate about this on Twitter (@damurry) earlier this week. Michael Jeffrey Jordan is undeniably the greatest player to ever touch a basketball from my generations standpoint and as a result they constantly compare the young upcoming players to him. Some of you may remember but Harold Minor was actually called “Baby Jordan” because of his leaping ability but I digress because it never panned out to much of an NBA career. The list of people compared to MJ goes on including Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, Kobe Bryant, and present day LeBron James. Of that list, Kobe Bryant would be the closest successor to Jordan because of his overall success in the league and currently longevity. It’s also obvious that Kobe idolizes Mike and shows on the court.
With all that being said, there will never be another Michael Jordan so just let that thought go. Even him dragging himself onto the court to play for the Wizards (Real MJ fans have faint memories of that era) and what he is currently doing to the Charlotte Bobcats organization with bad decision after bad decision his legacy is untarnished. Now the focus of today’s post is more about a forgotten man who at one point was compared to Jordan and even had a great opportunity to dethrone that Bulls Dynasty of the 90’s by being one of the focal points of his own. The basketball world was shocked when Jordan announced his retirement from the game of basketball in the beginning of the 1993 season but Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway had been drafted out of Memphis State University.
Penny came out of Memphis with a special group of talents. He was a 6’7″ combo guard who could give you 40 points with ease but he loved to pass so much that his scoring ability often went unnoticed. I personally remember watching him play in college and being so advanced that he was hitting his teammates in the face and chest with the ball because they just weren’t prepared for his passes. Hardaway was also part of the USA Select team that defeated the Dream Team in 1992. He would go on to be drafted by the Warriors 3rd overall but was traded draft night for the #1 pick Chris Webber and paired with Shaquille O’Neal.
Immediately the combos impact allowed Orlando to flourish in greener pastures, making the playoffs for the 1st time that season winning 50 games and followed that season with a surprising victory over the Chicago Bulls ruining Jordan’s return to the game. The young team eventually would take an L to Hakeem and the Rockets in the finals but you had a feeling that this team had the chance to be great for years to come. Unfortunately, MJ returned to game form and led the Bulls to a 72 win season and eventually defeated the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was just the start of issues for Penny because after winning gold in the 96 Olympics, Shaq took his talents to LA leaving Penny in Orlando by his lonesome.
He would still lead Orlando to the playoffs and even had back-to-back 40 point games to force a game 5 against the Miami Heat which they would eventually lose. The next season Penny would suffer a devastating knee injury that sidelined him the majority of the year. After this season, the Penny Hardaway story in the NBA starts to fade with stints in Pheonix, NY, and Miami but never quite returning to his all star form. As a member of the Orlando Magic he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Over basketball career he was the National High School Player of the Year in 1990, McDonalds All American, Great Midwest Conference Player of the Year (Twice), College All American, All NBA Rookie Team, MVP of the Rookie Game, Gold Medal winner, All NBA First Team (Twice), and a four time NBA All Star. But Penny’s impact on the game is much bigger than what he did on the court because similar to Jordan his sneakers are still sought out by sneaker heads. This demand caused Nike to re-release a number of Foamposites, Penny Hybrids, and even the extremely popular Air Zoom Rookie.
Still hurts to see my boy Penny fall from grace but let’s take a moment to pay homage…