Penny Hardaway was a bad dude, and today, he turned 42 years old.
You know you had game when no one since has been able to replicate it. He was a 6-7 point who could post you, spin off you, hit you with the step-back, float a sick hook shot on you, stroke the trey and drop a dime. He balled against Mike and Scottie. He was the Next Jordan. He had a mini-me. And he won. That’s what separated him from a lot of other cats. Dude won games, had the sneaker game on lock (and somehow still does), and left an undeniable imprint on the NBA, despite only being truly healthy for about four years.
How do I know this? When we posted a Who’s Better? featuring Penny, our Twitter blew up. People still love him. Grown folks love him. Even teenagers who never saw him play love him. Why? Of course, the shoes played a part. But so did the stuff he did on the court. How many players can you name who came into the league and were almost immediately talked about as one of the best? It doesn’t happen too often.
With these lists, I’ve been keeping rules. But here, the only rule is that it had to be in the NBA. Nevertheless, I chose two ridiculous plays from his college career and threw them into The Best of the Rest section just because they’re so good.
So with that, here are the top 10 plays from Hardaway’s too-short career.
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10. Penny On Washington
Hardaway used to come down the lane, jump stop and dunk all the time. It was almost like that jump stop revved him up, got his engines started and only then would he take off. But I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen him take off and then throw the ball down so quickly.
9. Penny Cooks Reggie Miller
No one ever said Reggie Miller was a decent defender. But if someone is ever stupid enough to argue with you, just show them this. At the same time, Hardaway made a lot of All-Stars look wobbly so don’t feel bad for Miller.
8. Penny Over Johnny Newman
You don’t jump with Penny, even if you have the angle. You just don’t. Newman found that out the hard way. Milwaukee nights are boring, except when you find a Penny.
7. Penny’s Spin/No-look vs. MJ
Hardaway was ruthless with the spin move in the half-court, but rarely did he pull it out on the break as he did here. To top it off with a no-look wraparound to a wide-open trailer? That’s Magic.
6. Penny 360 Layup
You know you’re good when you can bobble a pass in traffic and then control it enough to flick it in after nearly spinning 360 degrees in the air. How often do you ever see this play in the NBA?
5. Penny’s Ridiculous One-Handed Pass
No, he never put up crazy assist numbers. But Penny was a point through and through. He knew when to push it and when to back up. He also knew when a little extra flair was needed. This was so necessary.
4. Penny’s Wild Layups
It’s hard to say a spinning, over-the-shoulder, no-look layup can be a signature move, but once is luck, twice is skill. It might look unplanned, but you can practice it. Penny perfected it. Check out these two identical clips.
3. Penny’s Facial Over The Mailman
This must’ve been a Sunday…
2. Penny Over Sam Mitchell
I’m surprised this wasn’t the moment that sent Mitchell directly into the coach’s seat.
1. Penny Over Ewing (2:40 mark)
Patrick Ewing knows what it’s like to be dunked on. Ask him. He’ll tell you. He’s felt the dread. So why even jump, Pat? Why put yourself out there? You hesitated. You lost. Ain’t no way you were catching this. Penny had you sized up. It was a wrap.
The Best Of The Rest:
Penny With The Drop-Off In College (1:49 mark)
Penny With The Lob In College (2:00 mark)
Penny Over-the-Head Drop Off (1:32 mark)
Penny Over ‘Zo (:41 mark)
Penny’s No-Look Shovel Pass (3:12 mark)
Penny’s Reverse Layup (2:59 mark)
Penny Smashes On The Bulls
Penny Double-Pump Lob Against Seattle
Penny Dunks On Houston (6:53 mark)