When me and my little bro got the long-distance tease from our big one that the new kicks are on its way, the tingling excitement just wouldn’t subside. Also, along came the nostalgia.
Compared to my contemporaries, I got hooked late to basketball. I was already in 3rd year high school when I felt the addiction. Before that, I just love dribbling balls and bouncing it off on walls in our garage, nowhere beyond that. Like many youngsters with their hobbies that trapped the kid in them and would never let go, all it needed was finding your hero. Mine, you can call it, is a hand-me-down.
There were three of us boys in a sibling of five. Kuya, was the Alpha. All the boys stuff he surely got to have his hands on – kite-flying, trading cards, river-swimming, stainless-bike, guitars, action figures, video games, billiards, and all those other things which were the craze at least during our time. I was the more bookish, loner type. Cutting it short, Kuya introduced to me my basketball hero, which was his (and still is) and will eventually our little brother’s as well.
Our period was that period in the history of the NBA when tall guards were still not common. It was the period when the young Orlando Magic trooped to the Eastern Conference Finals under the leadership of that young, tall & skinny , 6’7” guard. The choice would not have been hard given that it was the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls they were going against and it was common knowledge the Magic has a slim chance (Jordan was in his prime)but the determination and talent of that young man is simply awe-inspiring. The Magic was swept. But Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaways’ enchantment stuck with the three of us and, we would like to believe, with so many others.
[Here’s an Air Penny 3 commercial featuring Naomi Campbell and Hardaway’s alter-ego, Li’l Penny.]
Penny Hardaway has long been gone in the NBA, having been waived by the Miami Heat back in 2007. His amazing career, plagued by injuries and bad management calls, ended in a not so sparkling manner. But what is so amazing is the following that he has acquired. Despite not winning an NBA championship, Penny is still regarded as a basketball icon. Nike, his long-time endorsement, still produces his signature line of shoes dubbed as the Air Penny series, considered to be one of Nike’s longest running. Nike was thought to have stopped to add new models to the series and just released retro color ways of the old models. But early this year came a big surprise to loyal fans when Nike released at least three more models, plus an Air Penny Retro Pack with five new color ways. Among the line under his signature where the Flight One, Foamposite, Flightposite, Air Max and the Half-cent. The latest release, the Air Penny 5, was both a testament of support and a tribute to American Basketball’s enduring icon.
Currently, Penny is not entirely out of basketball. He’s a sports radio host and has had a coaching stint. He is also rumored to have bought a minority-share in the Memphis Grizzlies ownership.
Our love for Penny goes beyond the highlights of his career. It was his sincere love for the game, in and out of the court. His was the mold that is now a rarity in the NBA where young ones see the game as a cash-cow or a performance stage for wild antics and fashion statements. Penny lived in the period where competition is truly fierce and pride meant as it should. Half a decade out of the court and he still lives it.
[Here’s the latest Air Penny 5. Photos courtesy of nikeblog.com]