by Ben Milch
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway was born July 18, 1972 in Memphis, Tennessee. Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway got the name Anfernee because his mom couldn't say Anthony and the doctor wrote down Anfernee when he asked Anfernee's mother her baby's name. His mother had to work long hours so he was raised by his grandmother until high school. He got the nickname "Penny" from his grandmother because she said that he looked like a penny when she looked down at him playing on the floor. His dad taught him about basketball as a child. As far as I know he doesn't have any brothers or sisters.
Hardaway started playing basketball on the playgrounds of Memphis, Tennessee. It was a hard world with a lot of tough people. On the playground he once saw a player get hacked (a kind of foul) and use a rifle to go after the guy who fouled him. He survived the playground to become the leading scorer at Treadwell High School in Memphis. He was named Mr. Tennessee Basketball his senior year of high school.
Hardaway attended college at Memphis State. He did not escape the violence of the street there- in his freshman year he was robbed at gunpoint and then shot. He hopes that kids of the present generation have it easier than he did. Looking back on that time Hardaway once said, "I'm thankful I never got into any serious trouble. If I had participated in some of the things that I saw, I might not be where I am today."
The influence of the street - the pressure to do drugs and other bad things could have destroyed his dream of playing basketball, but he is such a good and strong person that he was able to stay true to himself and his dream.
Anfernee Hardaway had to sit out his freshman year to become academically eligible to play basketball. He was able to get a 3.4 grade point average by the end of college because basketball made him want to learn.
Even in college, the 6'7" Hardaway was so polished on the court and he had so many different skills that he was compared to Magic Johnson. Twice he was player of the year in the Great Midwestern Conference and in his junior year he was voted All-American. He also held the single season record for points by scoring 729 points in one season.
He met Magic Johnson for the first time when he was chosen to play scrimmage games with the Dream Team (the American Olympic Team) before the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Magic Johnson said, "watching him is like looking in a mirror."