Thursday, August 16, 2007
The Life and Times of Tim Hardaway Vol. 10
After reading Ty Keenan's post about Run-TMC the other day, I had an epiphany: Tim Hardaway at a time was one of the illest players in the league, and a top-5 pg, easily. He was that good. So, since we are deeply entrenched in the dog days of summer (re: boring), I, Trey Jones, and the good folks at I Ball For Real bring you the Life and Times of Tim Hardaway. Enjoy.
When I was about 9 years old, way the f*ck back in '94, my cousin Kendrick would come stay over at my house for days at a time during that summer. We would always go to the local video store and rent movies. Besides a few Wrestlemania tapes, we always rented the same "NBA Superstars" video. It featured Kenny Anderson (my favorite college point guard of the '90s), Shaquille O'Neal (coming into his dominant self), and Derrick Coleman (one of the best young big man of the '90s).
But my favorite part of the video was when they got to Tim Hardaway, the dynamic, 6-foot point guard from the Golden State Warriors. Hardaway was, at the time, one of my favorite players and was playing on one of the most exciting teams of my generation.
Timmy was the head man (behind head coach Don Nelson) of the infamous Run-TMC (Tim, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin) juggernaut that run-and-gunned their way to stardom in the early '90s. But his story as one of the most underrated stars of our era began way before that.
Hardaway came out of Chicago, a city that can rival NYC as a top-flight breeding ground for point gods (Isiah Thomas, Hardaway, Will Bynum, Sean Dockery, Dee Brown,Sherron Collins, Derrick Rose.) He went on to star at the University of Texas-El Paso, winning the Naismith Award for the nation's best college player six feet or under.
Hardaway was taken by the Warriors with the 14th pick in the '89 Draft, after future journeymen like Michael Smith, Tom Hammonds, and Randy White. Timmy hit the ground running in Oakland. By his second year in the league, Tim Bug was an All-Star and dropping almost a double-double per game. (He averaged 22.9 points and 9.7 assists in '90-'91. He topped the double-double mark the next year.) In a league that was supposed to be tough on point guards, Hardaway had not killed that theory but shamed the critics that said he was too small to succeed in the L.
Tim was beginning to leave his mark in the NBA. He was charismatic (his "I Got Skills" commercial featuring Spike Lee remains an all-time favorite.); he was an All-Star (even giving up his starting spot to Magic Johnson in the classic '92 All-Star Game); and the Warriors were winning (they made it to the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers in '91, losing in five.) But his biggest trademark would come in the form of a devastating move that was far ahead of its time.
The Killer Crossover was about as unstoppable a move as there has ever been in the NBA. He was too quick and that Chi-town handle was impossible to stop. Even though his move would go on to be overshadowed by another killer crossover, true hoops fan know who was the originator.
Hardaway was the perfect point guard for the revolutionary run-and-gun offense in Golden State. (Contrary to what people believe, Run-TMC was the first true quick offense/no defense team; the Showtime Lakers not only were a good defensive team but they had a dominant low-post presence. The Warriors had neither.) Timmy ran the fast break like he was born for it. Mullin and Richmond might have scored more, but Tim Bug was the captain of the ship.
Of course, the good times didn't last that long. Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber came along and things dissolved between them and coach Nelson. Hardaway was traded to the Miami Heat in '96 and instantly made them a contender in the East. Unfortunately, the Heat could never get over the mountainous hump that was Michael Jordan and lost to the number 8 seeded New York Knicks in '99.
The last days of Hardaway's career in Miami were spent with him becoming a heavily overweight three-point jacker before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2001, who then sent him to Denver for another underrated pg, Nick Van Exel. Not too long after, he retired and became one of the worst ESPN on-air analysts ever before putting a Shaq-size shoe in his mouth by admitting that he "hates gay people" on Dan Le Batard's radio show in Miami. A sad end to a legendary career.
No matter what, in real basketball circles, Tim Hardaway will be always recognized as one of the best point guards of a great point guard era. And he will always hold a special place with me as one of my favorite players of all-time. He was the reason I stayed in my driveway practicing that crossover. He was one of the main reasons I wore number 10 in high school. And he was the reason we kept renting that damn "NBA Superstars" video.