Saturday, 12 March 2011
TWO THE HARD WAY
1 in 10
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
The 90's was an exciting and defining era for basketball. After Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revitalised the sport in the 80's a man named Michael Jeffrey Jordan televised this revolution to the whole, wide world in the 90's. Still it wasn't just the greatest of all time that made this era the best. From Hakeem's shake to Ewing's sweats and Payton's glove to the way Rodman suited and booted himself, the league in the last decade of the 20th century was full of talent and character. There was a whole group of players with individual talent and unique gifts who shaped the NBA and changed the game. Guys like Iverson or Shaq, Kemp or Kobe. Or the Hardaway's, Penny and Timmy.
People may forget these days, but the 90's was their hey-day. Forgot injuries or controversies. Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway and Tim 'Timmy' Hardaway where fan favourites from the jersey's to the commercials and the video games. These two dynamic players where both Point Guards with unique games but still two very different players. Still as the 90's faded away like Jordan's shot and the Bulls passed the torch and the Zen to the beginning of things in 'Lakerland', both players learnt about how times change the hard way. From Carter's to T-Mac's (and many more who would replace them) two of the 90's most defining players where left searching for their own definition as the new millennium bugged out a lot of veterans. Still everybody gets old, but everyone also has their time in the sun. So let's not forget when these two players shined in all their glory days and the individual gifts they graced a one of a kind league with.
With the 3rd pick of the 1993 NBA Draft the Golden State Warriors selected Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway, and they really should have kept that cap on him a little longer. The Penny they didn't save became Orlando's luck dime as this incredible passer and scorer with a one track star mind of athleticism was the closest thing the L had to comparing Mike to. Before LeBron, Dwyane or even Kobe, Penny was Shaq's right hand man and making things happen, bringing new dynamics to the big, small duo. Orlando could have been real magical, Penny could have earned much more of a legendary legacy then he already has, but injury happened and Shaq and Kobe happened.
Still second place shouldn't always be looked as the first loser, because Penny deserved to be a winner like Charlie Sheen. Even if Shaq had stayed Orlando would have been led by two and a half men, but still when Penny was healthy he was just what the Doctor ordered. Dr. J that is. In his first season Hardaway was the runner up Rookie Of The Year to Chris Webber, while in his sophomore season Anfernee still went to the NBA Finals with Shaq and the Magic, even if Hakeem and Houston brought out the brooms. When Penny was left with spare change in Orlando after O'Neal's departure he put the whole team on his shoulder and almost carried a higher scoring average then Jordan and this wasn't the only way he got close to touching the God of basketball. Air Penny almost entered the atmosphere of the greatest to ever do it. All of this was too much for his knee to take, but take away that and real history could of been made and re-wrote.
If you weren't rocking the number 23 in the 90's then it was probably because you where wearing the 45 one year. Still, there was one guy in school who wore the number 10 and I could never figure out why. That was until I saw the perfect, 10 out of 10 play of Timothy Hardaway. The quick, smart point guard really would take opponents to school in the old class of the mid-90's. He crossed over the ball handling and culture of the game years before Allen Iverson answered the call honing a dribbling style that was impossible for anyone to defend, like him. Stepping into the 90's legendary game like R. Kelly, this Chi-town legend did it with his 'UTEP Two-step'.
Showing he was together then leather with his Run-TMC partners of shooter Chris Mullin and slasher Mitch Richmond, Tim set the temperature for Californian hot basketball in Oakland. Then when Golden State traded him, Tim gave Miami more heat in the era of Mourning, Timmy left his opponents drowned in the sorrow of early Gatorade breaks and heads in towels. He was small but had speed to boot that negative notion into obscurity. He was the 14th pick in the 89' NBA draft but the 5 All-Stars, All-NBA accolades and MVP consideration quickly swept him into top ten consideration. After hitting 5,000 points and 2,500 assists faster then everybody but Oscar Robertson, becoming the 7th player in league history to average 20 and 10 in those categories and sharing a playoff record in steals (8 with fellow Heat legend Dwyane Wade) Timmy re-wrote the history books too.
These two world-wide favourite hit the globe in different ways. Tim Hardaway went down under to get his Team USA Olympic gold in Sydney, while on the low down before receiving his Gold in 1996 (Atlanta) Penny along with Allan Houston, Shawn Kemp and others tuned up the original dream team of '92 in a scrimmage before M.J. et al made history in Barcelona. Could you imagine if both Hardaways took the easy way out and played together? With the ability to drop buckets and dimes on anyone with triathlon athletics, they would have been one of the best backcourts of all-time, if not the best. Both players where selected by the Golden State Warriors but had their individual, defining moments for Florida ballclubs.
Both guys had legendary careers, in the prime-time but as age and injury sent things in to decline, they became journeymen like any old role players. Still despite Anfernee's Phoenix Suns , New York Knicks and Miami Heat and Tim's Dallas, Denver and Indiana, their careers should be known for the way they helped the league travel across boundaries in their moment and not their final destination. Forget the devastation of Penny's knee or the disrespect of Tim's comments about John Amaechi, this does not define them as players. When both guys where on-court their script of balling couldn't be written any better. Their inscriptions on the culture and legacy of 90's basketball is engraved permanently even if their names never laced championship rings.
If the NBA world in the early 2000's was hip-hop, then it was jazz in the 90's like Malone and Stockton, while the Hardaway's moved to their own unique rhythm coming together to form a classic piece of 90's bball. If Michael Jordan was the Michael Jackson, M.J of the music world, then Penny and Timmy where the Babyface and Tony Rich Project, still making hits and a legend of their own. Like the classic group Blackstreet, with the legendary, Lil' Penny in the video, from the backstreets to the blacktop's and the high tops these guys where a commercial success 'No Diggity', no doubt. The type that would make Chuck Taylor proud. The sons of Naismith and Wooden with the awards to prove it, this two the hard way is basketball personified. Swot up on your history or dig up some old videotapes and be taken to school. As the world learned even more about basketball in the 90's Penny and Timmy Hardaway where the education. The hall awaits. Time for the graduation.