Penny Hardaway on his game in today's NBA: 'My numbers would be crazy'

The 15-year NBA veteran and four-time All-Star spoke with Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill about one of the more memorable moves of his career and how his game would translate to the game today. Penny joined Yahoo Sports thanks to Polaris Slingshot, teaming up in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day. Fans can learn more about Slingshot at & can visit to donate or learn more.

Video Transcript


VINCENT GOODWILL: Hey, welcome to Yahoo Sports. I'm Vincent Goodwill here with University of Memphis Head Coach, All-NBA, NBA All-Star Anthony Penny Hardaway. Penny, thanks for joining us today.

I do got to ask you. There was one move that you had in the '97 playoffs against Keith Askins that like, half step, half stepback. It's been all over social media. Nobody has seen it done since then. It's been like 25 years since.

Do you remember the move? Do you remember what was going through your mind in that? Just because it's such a special play.

PENNY HARDAWAY: Absolutely, I remember that move vividly, and it was pretty much designed because Keith Askins was a very good defender. And I was just such a cerebral thinker and a high IQ player. I knew that if I went for the spin that he was going to jump that move. I just knew his game.

And so I did a half spin to make him come on this side of me, but I knew I was going to step away from him to get the separation. He still recovered greatly. But by the time he recovered, I was shooting the basketball, and I didn't see him. But I knew that he was going to go for it.

But basically I just tried to get him on the left side of me so I could step back for that 3. I was just feeling it. I was rolling that series. So I had 40-plus points back-to-back games, and it seemed like I couldn't miss.

And on that move I basically just tried to play a mind game with him, and it worked. He went for the move like I thought he would. And when I stepped away, he wasn't there. I was just trying to get separation.

VINCENT GOODWILL: Yes, 42 and 41, and I don't think you guys even scored 90 points in those two games. So you were basically carrying the entire offense for Orlando in that series. I mean, are you surprised that you haven't seen that done since? I mean, basketball evolves, and you see guys doing all these different moves with the different strength coaches and everything else, but nobody has tried that one. Are you a little bit surprised that nobody's tried to copy that.

PENNY HARDAWAY: I think guys are trying it in their workouts, but they're not trying it in the game. You got to have some guts to try that in a game because your coach has to allow you to do that, and I just had it flowing in Orlando. So I tried it. I don't know how many guys would try that in a game.

VINCENT GOODWILL: Now, it's funny just the way that the game was played then. It was so much free throw line down. It was so much more physical than it is now. Have you ever given thought to what you would look like in this era with no hand-checking, hardly anybody at the rim? How crazy what your numbers be if a healthy Penny Hardaway played in today's game?

PENNY HARDAWAY: Oh, yeah. My numbers would be crazy because My game fit this era. I mean, I wasn't a 3-point shooter. But what it would have allowed me to do was just really work on my 3-point shooting game. Because when we played, your field goal percentage was about pride. You didn't want to shoot lower than 50% from the field.

I didn't even venture out into the deep water. That's what I called it. I didn't even go out there and shoot 3's because I left that to our specialist. But in this era, I'd have definitely shot eight 3's a game at least, and fast breaking was part of my game anyway. So the style that they play right now is more of my style than actually the old style. So I feel like my numbers would have been special.

VINCENT GOODWILL: So it's funny because now you're the coach at University of Memphis. You came out of Memphis when it was Memphis State back in the day. How do you judge how you've done as a coach so far in your first handful of years?

PENNY HARDAWAY: Well, my career as a coach has been really weird and rocky. I judge myself off of obviously what I've done. But with all the adversity that we've had to go through from day one, I feel like I've done a great job.

The first year I inherited Coach Tubby Smith's team. He had five guys that played JUCO basketball that were on that team, and they were kind of stuck in their ways. And I had to come in and kind of win them over.

The next year we had the youngest group in the country. And then James Wiseman gets ineligible with the NCAA, and then he leaves. He only plays in three games. And then DJ Jeffries gets hurt, and Lester Quinones got hurt during the season and missed like, four or five games.

And then coming into this year, DeAndre Williams transfer from Evansville. Everybody around the country has been eligible. He doesn't get eligible until like the seventh game, and when he comes back we're 4 and 3. We're all over the place. And to be able to get 20 wins out of all three of those seasons and then have only in the second postseason because we didn't have it last year to win the NIT, I think that we're headed in the right direction.

VINCENT GOODWILL: That sounds like an NBA coach. You know what I mean? That sounds like an NBA coach. I'm not putting words in your mouth or anything, but I'm just curious about your own career aspirations. Not saying that you want to leave your Alma mater but I'm sure you want to play a big part in turning it around.

What is the long-term view for yourself? Is that NBA ownership? Is in the front office? Is it being an NBA head coach? What do you see for yourself long-term?

PENNY HARDAWAY: Yeah, I think that I wanted to keep climbing that ladder. I think that being a middle school coach, then a high school coach, and a college coach. Obviously, I want to do well for my hometown team. I want to win a championship for the city because we deserve it, and I'm working really hard for that.

But in the future if that comes up with an opportunity to coach in the NBA, then I definitely would look at it. But for now, Memphis is where I am. I'm locked in. I'm working very hard for this community and for this school to try to bring us a national championship here.

VINCENT GOODWILL: You're partnering with Polaris Slingshot to help drive mass awareness around World Autism Day, which is Friday, April the 2nd. You have your own personal experience with that. Talk about that a little bit.

PENNY HARDAWAY: Yeah, my personal experiences my son, Jayden, who was actually on the team with me in Memphis. He was diagnosed when he was two years old with autism. We noticed some mannerisms and some things that he was doing, and we thought it was kind of odd.

Took him to the doctor and they diagnosed with autism, and we put him into the speech therapy, the behavioral therapies, the occupational therapies, and just was taking him three or four times a week. And we just saw him grow quickly. Obviously, we caught it early enough, and a year later he had tested out of the spectrum of having autism. And he's been the valedictorian of his high school, making straight A's in college, and he's on the basketball team.

So pretty much a walking miracle. He has a story to tell for sure. Polaris Slingshot is doing a great job because they get into the community, and they bring awareness to different charities. And this charity's autism.

And for me, the autism awareness is that they kind of tell parents, if you notice anything different with their child that's out of the norm, just monitor it closely. Because if you catch it early enough, you won't be as hurt by it as later. You don't want to let it linger. So I think the awareness is just going to allow parents to understand some signs that you can see early and that you need to go to the doctor and get it checked out right away so that there would be more miracles. Because J's not the only miracle, but there could be more miracles of testing out of the spectrum.