Anfernee Hardaway has not been seen around Orlando very often since he left the Magic in a trade before the 1999-2000 season. He returned for the All-Star Game a few years ago, but we rarely see one of the Magic's four greatest players around much.
Tonight against the Knicks, Hardaway will be honored as part of the team's 25th Anniversary season. He has had a long, winding road but it all ultimately leads back to Orlando. Before injuries sapped him of his incredible athleticism, he was on pace for a Hall of Fame career.
That was a tragedy as much as his contentious exit from Orlando.
Hardaway though will always consider Orlando his basketball home, at least for his NBA play. That is where he is most associated. Thankfully YouTube highlights save him for perpetuity's sake so everyone can remember what an explosive and revolutionary player he was.
Hardaway told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com he remembers nothing but good things about his time in Orlando and wishes only he could have ended it better.
Hardaway spoke with Jake Chapman on Magic DriveTime on 740 AM The Game in Orlando and touched on his time in Orlando:
The big takeaway is when Hardaway talked about the 1997 Playoff performance when he had back-to-back 40-point games to force a decisive Game Five against the second-seeded Heat.
Hardaway said after Game Two (and really in the middle of Game Three), he decided to stop being unselfish and just put the team on his back. What followed was perhaps the greatest two-game Playoff performances in team history. Hardaway scored 42 and 41 points in consecutive games to turn the series around and nearly led the Magic to an upset over the Heat in that series.
Anything not to get swept.
The other takeaway is that Hardaway expressed some extreme regret for how things ended with the organization. He said he was ready to move on rather than accept a smaller role on a rebuilding team as the Magic tried to clear cap space and did not push enough to be a part of that in some way.
He said he was young and probably believed the grass was greener on the other side. He did not appreciate how good things were in Orlando.
Bygones have been bygones and it will be great having Penny back in the building tonight!