If your favorite NBA player is in his late 20s or early to mid-30s, there's a good chance that Anfernee Deon "Penny" Hardaway was one of his favorite players growing up. Kobe Bryant? Yes. Tracy McGrady? Yes. Gilbert Arenas? Yeah. LeBron James? Yep, Penny is one of the reasons James became a right-handed player even though he's a lefty.
I was lucky enough to be living in the Orlando area when Penny came into the league. This allowed me to acquire hundreds of hours of Penny footage on VHS tapes: Full games, half-time reports, news at 11 local footage. I was like a hunter in a tree but with a VCR remote ready to record over my favorite 90's shows (usually Saved By The Bell except for the ones that had Kelly in a swimsuit) to catch the latest Penny pass that would be viral and trending on social media today.
Then tragedy struck in O-Town. Shaq divorced the Magic and fans had to choose between Shaq Daddy or Penny. Since I was a Laker fan for life and a Shaq fan before a Penny one, I had to pack my bags, go with the Big Fella to Hollywood and just shake my head watching Felton Spencer try to fill his shoes back home. Things then got worse for Penny as injuries became frequent as did beef with teammates, coaches and the media. He quickly went from being the second most marketable player in the league to the second-best Hardaway in Florida.
In 1998, I started a silly website (Geocities anyone?) called Penny aka P---y. The site offended so many oversensitive Penny stans that I actually received daily death threats in my animated mailbox gif at the bottom of the anti-Penny site. But as Penny faded away, so did my negative feelings. I started ripping a bunch of those VHS tapes and putting the clips on better sites of mine and forums on the web. Before YouTube blew up, there was a good chance if you saw any rare Penny highlights on the web, it came out of my personal collection. I put out Penny mixes. Penny and the 90's Magic Mixes. Remixes of Penny mixes composed of the mentioned mixes. My love for Penny was back and stronger than ever.
A couple of years later, I was asked to do a T-Shirt design for a company called Hoop Culture. The shirt ended up on the backs of a lot of kids and streetball players, but the most rewarding moment for me is when I saw a pic of my 90's idol posing with that shirt. It made me forget that I did the shirt for pennies (no pun intended).
Years have gone by since that day, but every July 18th, I look forward to telling the same stories and reminding anyone willing to listen, that Penny was not only one of my favorite players but most likely your favorite player's favorite player too.
You will probably watch the following YouTube videos, look up his not so amazing stats and accomplishments and try to justify why people like me that saw him play in his prime thought so highly of him. All I can really say is he is one of the true rare cases where you just had to see it to believe it.
So enjoy a few clips that I proudly recorded and watched over and over again until I wore out my VCR heads. But first, a short Penny mix from my friend at OldSkoolBall.
UPDATE: On April 1st of 2016, I got to interview Penny Hardaway and it ended with him thanking me for "my knowledge of the game." Yeah, I'll be bragging about that moment for a very long time. Here's him talking about the best moments between him and Michael Jordan during that interview.
4 HOURS OF PENNY
You read that correctly. This video is made up of 4 hours of Penny footage from 1992 - 1995!