Tarrytown, N.Y. — One afternoon not too long ago, Tim Hardaway Jr. drove to a local Home Depot to purchase some replacement light bulbs. While there, he began perusing the aisles. A gas stove caught his eye, as did a wood-burning outdoor grill. In the store's kitchen section, he noticed some stainless steel appliances that he loved and a refrigerator, too.
For many individuals, trips to home goods and hardware stores are burdensome chores best avoided at all costs. Tours of their interiors—dreary hells where attempts to delineate between paint colors like Victorian Lace and Tropical Sand can drain the life of even the most spirited of creatures—are best made in haste.
Hardaway, though, looks forward to these jaunts. He views them as a welcome respite from his all-consuming day-and-night job as starting shooting guard, and leading scorer, of the New York Knicks.
"It's just a good way to get your mind away from basketball," he said. More so for Hardaway, the errand of replacing a busted light represents the perfect opportunity to employ his other area of expertise, honed on his living room couch before games and during off days.
The NBA's eight-month marathon of a season can be grating. Many players lean on hobbies to help complete the trek. Some play golf; others dive into video games.
But Hardaway, who this year is averaging 23.2 points per game—nearly double his career average entering the season (12.1)—has chosen a different outlet: He relies on the friendly, fantasy-fulfilling faces featured every day on the Home and Garden Television cable channel, known to most by the moniker of HGTV.
"I watch basketball here and there, but you get tired and need to get away from it," Hardaway said. "HGTV is my channel to relax. I watch it all the time."
His favorite show, he said, is Fixer Upper, in which husband and wife Chip and Joanna Gaines help couples purchase and renovate homes. He often spends off days parked on his couch, devouring episodes—both new and reruns—saved on his DVR. He knows HGTV's location by heart—"channel 64," he said with a smile—so that on those rare days when it's not the last channel he's watched, he can flip to it directly upon returning home following a game.
"The past three days that's the only channel that's been on my TV," Hardaway said.
He didn't always possess this passion for housing and interior decorating. His father, retired five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, declined an interview request for this story, saying that he was unaware of his son's obsession with HGTV and that it must have developed after Hardaway Jr. graduated high school and moved out of the family's Miami home.
Like so many of his peers, the 26-year-old Hardaway's infatuation with interior decorating arose thanks to MTV Cribs, the music channel's reality series in which famous people offer tours of their extravagant homes. But it wasn't until after his rookie season with the Knicks—he spent three years playing for the University of Michigan before being drafted by the Knicks 24th overall in 2013—that Hardaway came across HGTV's programming. He said Property Brothers, which features a pair of twin brothers helping families search for decaying homes to purchase and—you guessed it—renovate, was the show he fell in love with.
"I was like, 'Let me get an idea of what my dream home would be,'" Hardaway said. "An ultimate pad for everyone—family, friends—to enjoy."
But a snag in his NBA career temporarily derailed those plans. He was traded from the Knicks to the Atlanta Hawks following his sophomore season. Just a few months later, the Hawks sent Hardaway down to the then-D-League. He appeared in just 51 games that season for the Hawks and averaged a career-low 6.4 points.
He bounced back the next year, though, upping his scoring average to 14.5 points per game for a Hawks team that made the playoffs. The Knicks, impressed by this boost in production, inked their former draft pick in July 2017 to a massive four-year, $71 million contract, giving Hardaway the capital to make his dream house a reality and apply all the knowledge he'd amassed over the past three years.
"My Fixer Upper knowledge, my Property Brothers knowledge, Love It or List It, Flip or Flop—I'm using all of that," Hardaway said. He then listed off some examples:
"Say you're getting a marble countertop; you have to know what colors go with that. Or maybe you go porcelain. And then the backsplash has to match the kitchen countertop, and then you have the bathroom setting, and everything has to go with the theme of the home."
Hardaway does have a specific vision in mind. He'd like a place back in Miami. Also, "I'm in love with the white kitchen," he said. "With a light, black-brownish marble countertop.
"If there was a backsplash, it would be the subway tile. Or a Spanish tile thing. I'm in love with the modern Spanish tile."
The plan, he said, was to begin the process of finding and building his dream home last summer, but life got in the way. He even spent last season asking some of his veteran teammates for advice.
"He's been to my crib; he told me he liked what I did," former Knicks guard Jarrett Jack said, though he added that he was unaware of Hardaway's HGTV infatuation. Had Hardaway mentioned it, he would have discovered that he and Jack share a hobby. "I'm an HGTV watcher as well," Jack added.
But Hardaway does have one issue with some of his beloved HGTV shows; as he's begun thinking about his own home, he's learned that some of his favorite shows are often misleading.
"You watch these 30-minute shows where they build and renovate these homes and you think it takes, like, four to five weeks and it's actually, 'No, this takes two to three months,'" he said. "You never know what can happen with, like, little knickknacks popping up here.
"Or maybe the ground where you're building shifts a bit, and then you have to replace the foundation, and there's just so much that goes into it.”
Hardaway will have to wait until after the season to put all this knowledge to test. For now, all he can do is sit back on his couch and continue to take notes.
"It's going to be exciting," he said, "for me to see what I can do."