For every sports fan that's ever complained about the lack of athletic experience of those who analyze the sport, here's one resume that can't be argued with: 15,373 points, 7,095 assists, five NBA All-Star appearances and five All-NBA selections.
Those numbers were compiled during the illustrious 13-year NBA career of Tim Hardaway, who discussed all things basketball during a Dec. 16 event at Miami's Downtown Athletic Club.
The event, which marked the launch of Thuzio's South Florida expansion, offered fans and media members alike the chance to take to the hardwood with Hardaway and Kenny Anderson.
Prior to the climax of the event (a five-on-five basketball game), Hardaway took the time to chat hoops, past and present.
Although current NBA fans may beg to differ, the point guard said that he grew up watching the greatest era in basketball history. His early exposure to the game's biggest stars (Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Doc Rivers were just a few of the names he mentioned) helped to fuel his desire to make the sport's biggest stage and shaped the well-rounded game that helped him realize those ambitions.
"I'm from Chicago, so I was watching Isiah Thomas and how he played the game," Hardaway said. "My idol, and who I wanted to play after, was Isiah."
Looking back at the careers of two of the biggest stars to ever play the position, the similarities are striking. Despite not being gifted with a great size advantage (Thomas stood 6'1", while Hardaway measured 6'0"), both players found ways to score among the trees that occupy the NBA paint.
The two displayed some of the nastiest crossovers the league has ever seen. And both displayed the uncanny ability to always have the solution for what was ailing their team, be it finding open teammates or calling their own numbers.
Their two careers obviously overlapped as well—Thomas played from 1981-94, while Hardaway played from 1989-2003.
Inevitably, Hardaway met his idol on the NBA hardwood. For the former Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat star, the opportunity was just as unforgettable as was the chance he offered at the event for the basketball dreamers in attendance at the event.
"My first time playing against Isiah is something that was so meaningful," Hardaway said. "It was fun; I learned a lot. I was nervous, but it was fun."
Perhaps due to catching his childhood idol at the tail end of his career, though, Thomas was not the player Hardaway dubbed the toughest guard of his NBA career. That honor was bestowed onto another '90s point guard legend.
"Kevin Johnson was hard to handle," he said. "He could get to the rim, lay you up, shoot 12- to 15-footers. He wasn't shooting any threes really consistently, but he was getting to the basket or shooting 15-foot jump shots on you consistently. He was hard, a tough cover as we called it."
Of course, with Hardaway logging his service time during what many consider the greatest time of NBA basketball, Johnson wasn't the only tough matchup he encountered. Gary Payton, Mark Price and Rod Strickland were just some of the challenging assignments that fell Hardaway's way.
But a challenging task was something that he relished.
"I enjoyed playing against some guys because they brought out the best in you," he said. "Because you two were considered [among] the best guards in the NBA."
Many experts have labeled this current crop of point guards in the NBA as the greatest collection of talent ever assembled at the position. Hardaway holds no resentment to that statement, but offered that there may be a rational explanation for that (possibly misguided) way of thinking.
"Back in the day, and when I say back in the day I'm talking about 10 years ago, there was not that much media coverage," he said. "So the guys weren't being shown like they are now. [Current players] are all over the globe.
"We were just in an era where we made things happen in our era, but now everybody's visible," he said. "It's not us being upset; that was just that era and that was just the media."
The position has drawn massive coverage of late as analysts have struggled to define the roles of today's point guards: traditional vs. scoring. Hardaway (a career 17.7 points per game scorer) offered his own take on balancing the demands of the position.
"I was a point guard that could score, but I got my team involved first," he said. "With Run TMC [the label given to Golden State's trio of Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond], I needed to score. With the Miami Heat, I didn't really need to score all the time. We had Voshon Lenard, Alonzo Mourning, P.J. Brown, (Jamal) Mashburn and some guys coming off the bench.
"We had a crew, but when it's winning time, I like to be that guy who makes the decision to put the ball in the basket or to give it to the person that's open. I'm always a point guard first, (but) if I need to score, I score."
The positionless approach undertaken by Miami Heat (Hardaway's current employer, where he serves as their Community and Corporate Liaison) coach Erik Spoelstra, conjures up visions of the small-ball approach of Hardaway's former coach in Golden State, Hall of Famer Don Nelson.
"Nelson implemented it back in the day, but now people are starting to see what he was trying to do," he said. "Maybe at that particular time, it was too early for him to bring it in, but now it's the right time to bring that type of basketball into play."
Perhaps Miami's style of play plays a role in its being Hardaway's favorite team to watch. Well, that along with his past (and present) involvement with the franchise.
Excitement is a common theme for Hardaway's favorite teams, which should be no surprise considering how he played the game.
"I love watching the L.A. Clippers; they're exciting, they get up and down," he said. "I've been a Chris Paul fan since I saw him at Wake Forest. (He) controls the tempo for his team."
There's another theme that arises from his favorites to watch—great point-guard play.
"I love watching (Derrick Rose) play; love how he puts his team in a position to win each and every night," he said. "(I like watching) the Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry's playing well. I keep up with it," he says laughing.
After the interview subsided, Hardaway and Anderson took to the court to provide fans and media members (yours truly, included) the chance to share the floor with two of the game's greats.
Thanks to the kind folks over at Thuzio, here's a brief look at how things went.
The opportunity to play alongside two NBA legends was one that I'll never forget.
And it's one that Thuzio provides fans on a daily basis.
The brainchild of former NFL star Tiki Barber and co-chairman Mark Gerson, the company offers consumers the opportunity to access their favorite current and former stars of the sports world.
The idea is as simple as it is brilliant—bringing athletes (past and present) together with their fans for unforgettable experiences. The possibilities are endless, ranging from company appearances to playing a pickup game of basketball, all at rates set forth by Thuzio and their expanding talent base.
The company's talent, as explained by Gerson, is assembled in one of three ways: by a dedicated team of outbound talent recruiters, inbound requests from current and former stars and in response to customer requests for players not yet under Thuzio's umbrella.
The response from potential talent additions has been overwhelmingly positive. And Gerson doesn't anticipate that changing.
"I don't think any athlete has said no," Gerson said. "And I can't think of any reason why anyone would. There's no commitment on their part; they just put themselves on to the platform and they receive opportunities."
Hardaway described the company as just what he had been looking for in the next stage of his professional career.
"I thought it was a unique way for them to have you out there being marketed," he said. "I was intrigued about Thuzio and how they could branch and get you out there.
"(As an athlete) taking pictures, saying hello, being courteous to people, that comes with the territory," he said. "But for (fans) to have a one-on-one experience with you like at a golf outing or sitting down with you at a basketball game, that's a great experience."
Thuzio started in New York, but the Dec. 16 event marked their expansion into the South Florida market. The company's next targeted market is set for Los Angeles.
Their talent list started with the major sports (which Gerson defined as basketball, baseball, football, hockey and soccer) and that's still the company's prior focus. But they've also expanded their talent base into other sports (including, but not limited to, mixed martial arts, motocross, tennis and poker) due to fan requests. They plan on launching their theater division next, drawing talent from the world of movies, music and television.
If anyone is interested in finding out more information about the company (and judging from my own experience, you absolutely should be), feel free to check out their website for information on their talent base and experiences that they offer.