Basketball legend Penny Hardaway’s career is full of guesswork. What if the Golden State Warriors kept the rookie point guard instead of trading him to the Orlando Magic? What if Shaquille O’Neal had never left for the Los Angeles Lakers? What if Hardaway stayed healthy?
Thanks to the official Orlando Magic Instagram account, we have another question to keep us up at night. What if Hardaway signed with Converse instead of Nike?
According to the post, Converse offered Hardway a $7 million sneaker deal in 1993. However, the rookie from Memphis State turned down the offer because he preferred Nike’s Swoosh logo to Converse’s Star logo.
While that’s a lot of money, it’s hard to say Hardaway made the wrong call. For his first two seasons in the NBA, Hardaway wore a range of Nike basketball shoes, including the Nike Foamposities and the Air Jordan 9.
Nike announced Hardaway’s first signature sneaker – the Nike Air Penny 1 just two weeks before Michael Jordan returned to basketball in 1995. For readers too young to remember, Hardaway’s hoop shoe legacy is legendary.
Not only did the Penny line produce basketball shoes that performed well with technology that still holds up to this day, but they also gave us some of the best advertising ever.
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As Hardaway became an All-NBA player, his level of popularity soared to new heights thanks to Lil Penny. Nike created a miniature Hardaway puppet that was the complete opposite of its namesake – brash, bold and talkative. The puppet was voiced by a young actor and comedian named Chris Rock.
Further proof that Hardaway made the right choice in signing with Nike is his shoe’s continued popularity. Just this week, Nike re-released the Nike Air Penny 1 in the ‘Orlando colorway for $170.
After 14 seasons in the NBA, Hardaway couldn’t stay away from basketball for long. The former floor general took the clipboard and started coaching high school basketball in Memphis. Now, Hardaway coaches at his alma mater, the University of Memphis (a Nike-sponsored school). Stay locked in FanNation Kicks for the latest news, updates, and interviews.
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