Classic card of the week

Anfernee Hardaway, 1997 Upper Deck "Crunch Time" series

Is there anything crunchier than hitting two free throws with 7.4 seconds left on the clock during a regular season game against the Toronto Raptors? No, there is not. To wit:

“Penny” Hardaway has a panache for hitting game-winning baskets.

Is this true? I honestly don’t remember Penny Hardaway’s panache. I remember that he was really good at basketball, and then not so good at basketball. It’s possible that during the time he was really good at basketball he displayed a noticeable panache for game-winning baskets. If that is indeed true, I wonder why Upper Deck did not choose a more thrilling game-winning basket from his extensive catalog of game-winning baskets to highlight.

He can hit the open three, drive to the hole or, as he displayed at Toronto (1/12/97), nail clutch free throws under pressure.

The exact date is unnecessary. I trust we all remember where we were when Penny Hardaway hit two pressure-filled foul shots against the Raptors. Me? I was a freshman in college. The buzz vibrated through the dormitory with the intensity of the hottest hook-up gossip: Did you hear what Penny Hardaway did tonight? I rushed to the television. January 12th. I’ll never forget.

By hitting two from the charity stripe with 7.4 seconds left, “Penny” led the Magic to an 88-85 victory.

Duly noted is the fact that Hardaway shot 4-for-14 from the field in this game and provided two assists from the point guard position, so being able to shake that off and hit two shots with nobody guarding him is a testament to his leadership. Another testament to his leadership occurred not long after sinking these free throws when, as Wikipedia notes:

During the season Hardaway, being the team leader, led a coup to fire then coach Brian Hill with only 33 games left during the season.

Besides hitting clutch free throws, leaders also lead coups to get coaches fired. These are the things that leaders do. (I also enjoy how Wikipedia—seemingly on Brian Hill’s side in all of this—notes there was “only 33 games left,” implying the Magic should have forged through this brief remaining schedule in tact. Thirty-three games is kind of a lot of games, no?)

Anyway, with regards to this specific Penny Hardaway clutchness, it cannot be overemphasized how clutch these free throws really were. In fact, in the measly 7.4 seconds that remained after Hardaway put the Magic up 85-82, only a few things happened:

The Magic called a timeout, which lasted seven minutes in real time, so that soon-to-be-coup’ed-against-coach Brian Hill could remind his team to try and win the game. The Raptors went to inbound on their ensuing possession, but didn’t like what they saw, so they called a timeout. The Raptors cheerleaders came onto the court to urge the crowd of 1,241 not to give up hope. The Raptors inbounded the ball and the Magic immediately fouled Damon Stoudamire. He hit both free throws (unclutchly) to make it 85-84. The Magic called a timeout. Then the Magic inbounded the ball and the Raptors immediately fouled Horace Grant. He hit both free throws, making it 87-84. The Magic called a timeout. During this time, the Raptors’ mascot, a raptor, dunked from a trampoline amidst exploding fireworks. Then the Raptors inbounded the ball and the Magic immediately fouled Doug Christie, who very unclutchly made only one of two free throws. The Raptors called timeout. The Magic inbounded the ball and the Raptors immediately fouled Rony Siekaly, who made his first free throw. The Raptors called a timeout. Rony Siekaly missed his second free throw, but the ball went off the foot of Popeye Jones and the Magic retained possession. Now there were only 5.4 seconds left on the clock. The Magic inbounded the ball to Nick Anderson, who ran around the court dribbling so no one could foul him, thus running out the clock in the process. The Magic won, Penny Hardaway’s clutch free throws proving to be the difference, in the way that most points in a three-point game make a difference.

Did you know?
The use of personal fouls as a means of manipulating the most important part of a basketball game rather than being like, an accident, was a strategy introduced by a person who hates basketball.


Ha, Popeye Jones!!!
Bill said…
Not to be outdone, "Lil' Penny" organized a mutiny against mini-Brian Hill in 1997.

Also, you've touched on a big pet peeve for both of us, the fouling at the end of games. You just don't see that in any other sport. In football, if you're losing with 13 seconsd left and no timeouts, you can't just commit a bunch of penalties to get the ball back. (I really hope Goodell isn't reading this, else he might try it.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Raptors fan to console. To this day, 1/12/97 is a sore spot to that entire fan base.