Penny Hardaway was a good basketball player during his playing years, but what he is best known for are the fights. The Miami Heat star has been involved in numerous brawls over the course of his career including one with Phoenix Suns teammates Mario Chalmers and Miles Plumlee where Hardaway punched them both in the face.
Penny Hardaway once brawled with Phoenix Suns teammates over a $30,000 bourré pot right in front of season-ticket holders.
As one half of a superstar duo with former colleague and lesser-known actor Shaquille O’Neal, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway gave plenty of memories for Orlando Magic fans. Fans of the Phoenix Suns can’t say the same. Despite this, one incident from Penny’s stay in the desert is worth recalling because of the situation’s ridiculousness.
On the team aircraft, Hardaway used to play cards with his Suns colleagues, who included season-ticket holders at one time. Those passengers were treated to a spectacle on one particular trip, when a game of bourré devolved into a full-fledged fight.
With the Suns, Penny Hardaway had four disappointing seasons.
Penny Hardaway seemed to be the NBA’s next big thing at one point. As the Magic’s all-around point guard, he was named to three All-NBA teams.
Hardaway, on the other hand, had evolved into a completely different player by the time he arrived in Phoenix. Penny had repeated ailments in two of his last three seasons in Orlando, with knee and foot issues looming big. However, during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, he appeared in all 50 games.
Hardaway impressed the Suns enough to bring him into the fold. Penny was brought to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade, where he established an attractive backcourt with Jason Kidd.
Despite the hype, Hardaway and the Suns were never able to live up to their expectations. Penny had a good first season in the desert, averaging 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while contributing to the Suns’ playoff appearance. After then, everything started to fade away.
Due to two microfracture operations on his knee, Hardaway only played four games in the 2000-01 season. Penny was never the same after that. Between 2001 to 2004, he played with the Suns for slightly over two years, averaging 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists.
Kidd was traded to the New Jersey Nets during that time period by the Suns. Penny followed J-Kidd out the door when Hardaway was dealt to the New York Knicks in the 2004 Stephon Marbury trade.
Penny’s tenure with the Suns marked the beginning of his fall from grace in the NBA. One of his most remembered memories in Phoenix is about an intense game of cards.
On the team aircraft, Hardaway and Todd Day fought with Cliff Robinson over a $30,000 pot in a card game.
On January 5, 2003, in Los Angeles, California, Penny Hardaway watches a game versus the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center | Getty Images/Jeff Gross
Randy Livingston, a former Suns guard, recalls the incident vividly. When things became violent, Livingston, Hardaway, Todd Day, and Cliff Robinson played their normal game of bourré.
Robinson was often beaten in cards on road trips throughout the 1999-00 season, according to Livingston. On one of these occasions, the 18-year center ultimately won a game, with a huge $30,000 on the line. However, someone said something that caused Robinson to brawl with Day and Hardaway in front of season-ticket holders.
“I was playing bourré with Cliff, Penny, and Todd, and the pot went up to $30,000.” Cliff, who had finally won a pot, whispered something to Todd. Every road trip, we were able to outrun Cliff. ‘That post needs to go back to [Day],’ someone remarked. Cliff had gone insane. On the aircraft, we had season-ticket holders. The Suns allowed relatives and friends to board the aircraft. They got into a brawl and grabbed each other. Todd trampled on Cliff after he fell. “It was insane.”
–The Undefeated, via Randy Livington
Day signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves the next summer, maybe not coincidentally. Hardaway and Robinson were teammates for the 2000-01 season, but the Suns traded Uncle Cliffy before the 2001-02 season.
And to think, all of this happened before Robert Sarver took office. The Suns have long seemed to be dysfunctional, but the recent investigation has heightened the turbulence surrounding the current Suns governor.
In any case, Hardaway’s next chapter is likely to be filled with greater success and less conflict.
Coaching as a new career
Penny Hardaway’s basketball career is very far from done.
Prior to the 2018-19 season, Memphis University hired Hardaway as their men’s basketball coach. During his time with the Tigers, he was involved in a high-profile case involving James Wiseman, who was accused by the NCAA of receiving illicit favors before to committing to the Tigers in 2019. Penny, on the other hand, is constructing something in Memphis.
In his first three seasons with the Tigers, Hardaway was 63-32. Emoni Bates, the best high school player in the country, was recruited by him and had an immediate impact in his first game against Tennessee Tech. The Tigers were rated 12th in the country heading into the 2021-22 season.
Penny is undoubtedly aiming to leave an indelible mark on the sport, more than two decades after his career was ruined by injuries and a series of botched card games.
Basketball Reference and Sports Reference provided the statistics.
RELATED: Michael Jordan was taken aback when his Chicago Bulls shut down a key Phoenix Suns All-Star in the 1993 NBA Finals: ‘It’s Surprising That We’ve Been Able to Keep Him Under Wraps,’ says the author.
Penny Hardaway once brawled with Phoenix Suns teammates over a $30,000 bourré pot right in front of season-ticket holders. Reference: penny hardaway high school stats.
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