Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway was considered the type of talent you'd see maybe once a decade. At 6'6", the guard had size and ball-handling skill comparable to Magic Johnson, along with speed, athleticism and scoring ability believed to challenge the great Michael Jordan. In a modern era where tall, well-rounded wing players are increasingly common, Hardaway was the original.
During his time with the Orlando Magic, Hardaway looked poised to take over the league as the four-time All-Star quickly established himself as one of the premiere talents in the Eastern Conference along with then teammate and rising star, Shaquille O'Neal. His well-rounded game made him a shoo-in for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team, and there he won a gold medal. Ultimately, despite his success in Orlando, a nearly career-ending knee injury put him on ice for the 1997-1998 NBA season and would eventually send him to the Phoenix Suns. However, to lend credence to just how special a player Hardaway was, he got a seven-year contract worth $86 million, despite coming off of an injury that would likely derail most modern-day careers for good. He would never fully return to his peak, retiring in 2007.Off the court, Hardaway's campaign with Nike was one of the most successful, birthing some of the most popular sneakers of the 1990s, the Foamposite. In addition to his famed partnership with Nike, Hardaway also had various lucrative endeavors ranging from a salon and barbershop to a celebrity fitness center, Terf Athletic Facility, in Miami. Needless to say, Hardaway, who according to CNN, "made more than $120 million in a pro basketball career that spanned 16 seasons," is pretty much set for life financially.
So why is it that he would return to his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., to, of all things, coach a middle school basketball team? He did it for his friend Desmond Merriweather, who above all else, wanted to ensure that his boys would have a coach while he battled colon cancer. Merriweather sadly passed on Feb. 8,
but with the help of Hardaway his dream was fulfilled.