Basketball-reference.com recently started a blog called Keltner's List, which examined the careers of past and current players to determine their legacies. They've inspired me to start my own list of players to examine.
The first player is Tim Hardaway, who will unfortunately be remembered more for his homophobic comments than excellent play.
One of the top players of the 90's, Hardaway was left off the list of Hall of Fame contention in his first year of eligibility, but here's some things to consider when assessing his career.
Let's start with some basic information:
- position: point guard
- height: 6' weight: 175
- born: September 1, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois
- college: University of Texas at El Paso
- years played: 1989-2003
- 17.7 points per game
- 8.2 assists per game (ninth all-time)
- 3.3 rebounds per game
- 1.6 steals per game
- .431 field goal percentage
- .355 three point percentage
Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball?
Definitely not. It's pretty difficult to be close to the best player when you play in Michael Jordan's era.
Was he ever the best player on him team?
Certainly. On the Warriors, his main competition was Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. He was the best player on the team from 1990-1994. He'd often score a bit less than Mullin, but Hardaway was the top playmaker in the team's fastbreak system.
Upon arriving to the Heat, Alonzo Mourning was the team leader, averaging around 20 points and 10 rebounds while being one of the league's best shot blockers and all-around defensive stoppers. But in the 97-98 and 00-01 seasons, Mourning suffered injuries and Hardaway stepped up as the leader.
Was he ever the best player at his position?
Although you could argue he was the best point guard of 96-97, his only first team all-NBA appearance, but I give the edge to Gary Payton that season due to defense.
Other than that, usually Payton, John Stockton, or Jason Kidd would be on over the course of Hardaway's prime.
Did he ever make an impact in the Conference Finals or NBA Finals?
Hardaway may have had a greater legacy had he not had to miss playoff games with injury, as he only made the conference finals once, in 97 with the Heat, arguably his best season.
The Heat lost in five games to Jordan's Bulls. In the one win, Hardaway scored 25 points and seven assists to lead the team.
Was he good enough to play regularly after passing his prime?
Hardaway's decline started after 98, when his scoring and assist numbers kept decreasing. He was able to start for three more years with the Heat.
The next year with the Pacers, he only played 10 games with the Pacers and then retired.
Are his numbers comparable to other hall of famers?
Hardaway is one of six players with career averages of 17 points and eight assists per game. Three are in the Hall of Famer: Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Isiah Thomas.
The three who haven't made it are Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, and Chris Paul, who is obviously not eligible yet.
Is there any reason to suggest the player was better or worse than their statistics?
A couple of reasons that some consider him worse. Playing in a fastbreak offense elevated his numbers with the Warriors, although he proved he could produce in a slower Heat offense.
The other reason is his defense. He was undersized and overaggressive, similar to Allen Iverson. He was a ball snatcher, averaging 1.6 steals per game, but had a hard time blocking shots and often let his opponent dribble by him.
Any impact on NBA history?
He made the crossover famous.
If he were the best player on his team, would that team be likely to win a championship?
Probably at least one. Unfortunately for Hardaway, the Bulls dominated the decade and many great players went without a chance at a championship.
Should he be a Hall of Famer?
Yes. Hardaway is ninth all-time in assists and was able to be a dominant scorer. As you saw with his number comparisons, the only people who haven't made it with his numbers are Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul. Paul should make it after he retires and many argue that Johnson is one of the most underrated players in NBA history.
Data from basketball-reference.com and hoopedia.nba.com was used in this article.