Tim Hardaway says he has silenced his phone and is declining to take any calls until this weekend is over. Most of his time is being spent with the speech he will deliver Saturday night when he is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, rehearsing it over and over and over again.
“Repetition, repetition, just like basketball,” he said this week from his home outside Detroit. “Repetition to get it right to get it straight, no glitches.”
The repetition takes Hardaway back to his boyhood on the South Side of Chicago, to the basement where he retreated in the frigid winters and practiced his handles. Over and over again, Hardaway would dart through the unheated basement, pretending the poles were opponents. It was during those long solo sessions that he developed the ballhandling skills — including the “Killer Crossover” aka the “UTEP Two-Step” — that would be part of his identity.
Hardaway’s long-awaited enshrinement will put him alongside Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin in Springfield, Massachusetts, officially immortalizing the Warriors’ Run TMC trio that thrilled fans with its run-and-gun style of play under coach Don Nelson.
“Run TMC, we whole again,” said Hardaway, 56. “We’re like three amigos, or one for all and all for one. And that’s what it’s about.”
Nelson, the Hall of Fame coach (Class of 2012), used the 14th pick of the 1989 draft to take Hardaway, a 6-foot guard from the University of Texas-El Paso. He was in the starting lineup on opening night with Mullin and Richmond — and Uwe Blab and Rod Higgins — and the trio quickly formed a bond that remains to this day.
Mullin and Richmond were the type of players who put their heads down and just played. Hardaway was not.
“He was bombastic,” said current 49ers announcer Greg Papa, who called Warriors games during the Run TMC era. “He was different than Chris and Mitch. Chris was the elder statesman that was here earlier… and then Mitch came in ‘88 and completely changed the team with his presence.
“But then they needed a guy to put it all together, and it was Hardaway. And it was this Chicago playground player with that UTEP two-step, that killer crossover and just a talkative, in-your-face leader.”
Hardaway’s style was heavily influenced by his upbringing in Chicago. His father, Donald Hardaway, was a playground basketball legend and had taken him to games as soon as his son could sit on a basketball to watch. The young Hardaway was fascinated by the physicality of the games.
“Playing on the street in Chicago back then, it was tough,” Tim Hardaway said. “You had to have confidence, you couldn’t let nobody break your confidence. Each and every day you had to prove yourself, no matter who you was… So I had to come in every day and show people that every time we play, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to destroy you. I’m going to do everything to put fear in your eyes, put fear in your heart. And that’s what I did and that’s why they made me who I am today.”
Golden State led the league in scoring during the 1989-90 season, but finished with a 37-45 record. The next season, with Run TMC in full stride, the Warriors went 44-35 and scored a first-round playoff upset of David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs.
The Run TMC era ended the next season, on opening night, with the shocking trade of Richmond shortly before tipoff. Nelson sent Richmond to Sacramento in exchange for Billy Owens, a 6-8 rookie who made the Warriors bigger and better. They went 55-27 that season. But the fun was done.
“There’s obviously been other eras of Warriors basketball that were more successful as far as wins,” Papa said, “but there aren’t too many groups that were more fun than Run TMC.”
Hardaway spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Warriors, losing one (1993-94) to a knee injury. In the five seasons he played, he averaged 25.2 points, 11.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds, and made the All Star team three years in a row. On the outs with new coach Rick Adelman, Hardaway was traded to the Miami Heat (along with Chris Gatling) in 1996 for Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis. Hardaway received two more All-Star nods and played for three more teams before retiring in 2003.
But he was always a Warrior, in every sense of the word.
“He could beat his man just about any time he wanted,” Papa said. “He had a funky jump shot, it wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t Mully’s shot, but he just willed it in the basket so many times and never backed down from confrontation.”
Hardaway waited eight years after Richmond’s enshrinement before receiving the call to the Hall. He didn’t want to speculate why it took so long, but it is widely held that his homophobic comments on a 2007 radio show caused the delay.
Hardaway has since acknowledged the wrongness of his remarks and enrolled in an educational program at the Miami-based YES Institute. He’s also worked with other gay-rights groups.
“Had he not said those terrible words, he would’ve been in the Hall of Fame five years ago,” Papa said. “He had to pay his penance and I think he learned from it.”
Hardaway will have five presenters with him on stage Saturday night: Isiah Thomas and Nate Archibald, two little men who made it big; Yolanda Griffith, WNBA star and an alum of the same Chicago high school as Hardaway; and the two men who ran with him to form Run TMC.
“We genuinely love each other,” Hardaway said of him, Mullin and Richmond. “So happy because we go in together.”
Contributed by local news sources