The last few months have given Tim Hardaway plenty of reasons to smile, the highlight of his accolades being an induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
But what keeps him on cloud nine is watching his son, Tim Hardaway Jr., play for the Dallas Mavericks.
“I love it man,” Hardaway told The Athletic. “This is his 10th year — 10th year in the NBA — and man, how time flies. I’m happy for him. I think he gets better and better. He’s more confident. He understands how to take care of his body. He understands how to be a leader out there on the court. There’s a lot of things I like when I see him out there playing, and I have fun watching him play.”
Through the first 31 games this season, the younger Hardaway has averaged 13.1 points and 2.7 rebounds. He is one of five Dallas players averaging double figures in scoring, and he ranks second on the team behind Luka Dončić in 3-pointers made per contest. For his career, he’s averaged double figures in scoring every season except for one — 2015-16 — when he averaged 6.4 amid a slow start with the Atlanta Hawks.
In Wednesday’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points to help the Mavericks earn a 104-99 road win. He got nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and helped Dallas snap a two-game skid.
The scoring stats resembled what his father would do regularly during the 1990s. The elder Hardaway averaged 20 points or more per game in five NBA seasons. Hardaway celebrated his Hall of Fame induction in September, and the following month, he was honored at The Buoniconti Fund’s 37th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner in New York City for his charitable work. The Buoniconti Fund, a nonprofit organization, raises money and awareness to help The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
Ask Hardaway, though, and none of that matches the pride in his voice when he talks about his son’s NBA career.
“He tells me every single day that he’s proud of me. He wants me to go out there and be the best version of myself as possible,” Hardaway Jr. said of his father. “He understands I’m not doing this for him; I’m doing this for myself, and with him just being more of a father than a coach, it lifted so much weight off my shoulders that it helped propel me to get to this point in my career. So, I thank him for that, for sure.”
Currently a college scout for the New York Knicks, Hardaway starred for the Golden State Warriors (1989-96) and Miami Heat (1996-2001), then played for Dallas, Denver and Indiana from 2001-03. The five-time NBA All-Star’s toughness helped him become one of the best of his generation.
He enjoyed the Hall of Fame recognition, making the award a ceremony circuit.
“Me and my family, we’ve just been taking it in stride, having fun and doing what we’re supposed to do, and just having fun with the people, too,” Hardaway said. “People come out and support you. I’ve just been having fun. I’m enjoying the ride, and I’m having fun with the ride.”
Hardaway’s jersey had been retired by the Heat and at UTEP before his Hall of Fame induction. His son has carved out his own niche in the NBA as a 6-foot-5 wing who has averaged double-digit scoring in nine of his 10 seasons.
The younger Hardaway said he realized his father “was really, really good” when watching him play against the Knicks in the playoffs during the 1990s. The Hall of Fame ceremony was confirmation of his father’s greatness.
“It’s just great to be able to follow in your dad’s footsteps but, most importantly, to know that he was that dude, he was that guy,” Hardaway Jr. said. “It was great. It was something I’ll never forget, something our family will never forget obviously. We’re just happy for him. It’s been many years of tears and sorrows just because he didn’t get the call that he wanted. Just for him to get that call and finally get tears of joy was awesome.”
Some have speculated Hardaway’s wait for induction was because of homophobic comments made in an interview 15 years ago for which he issued an apology. There’s no way to know exactly why Hardaway wasn’t a Hall of Famer sooner, but he’s enjoyed the celebration of his career that came along with the honor.
Hardaway might be best known for his crossover dribble, known as the UTEP Two-Step. He averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists for his career.
Tim Hardaway’s killer crossover! UTEP Two-Step 🔥
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 10, 2022
His 7,095 assists rank 18th all-time among NBA players. A five-time All-NBA selection, Hardaway was a first-round pick of Golden State in 1989 and teamed with future Hall of Famers Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin to form “Run TMC,” which was a play off the name of the legendary rap group Run-DMC. The trio was the core of a high-scoring, fast-paced attack under coach Don Nelson. Future Hall of Famer Šarūnas Marčiulionis also was on the team.
Run TMC only lasted for two seasons after Richmond was traded to Sacramento in 1992, but the group’s influence on the game remains; their pace and style were ahead of their time.
Hardaway was a finalist for the Hall of Fame five times before being elected. He was the final member of Run TMC to get the Hall of Fame nod.
“You have to wait until they are ready for you to get in,” Hardaway said. “I’ve been patient, happy that I’m not only with them, but with Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Alonzo Mourning, those guys I played with, had fun with, enjoyed the game and have grown with together with the game. So, it’s great to be in with them. People tell you you’re one of the greats — and people were telling me that — but when you’re actually in there in there, now you feel everything is solidified.”
As part of the Heat, Hardaway was the facilitator for one of the best teams in the East and part of one of the late-1990s most intense rivalries between Miami and the New York Knicks.
Besides being a scout for the Knicks and following his son’s career, Hardaway is heavily involved with The Support Group, a nonprofit he helped start in 1989 to assist underserved youth in his hometown of Chicago.
He’s also worked with The Buoniconti Fund, a nonprofit focused on raising funds and awareness to help The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The Miami Project was started in 1985 by Pro Football Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti after his son Marc sustained a spinal injury in a college football game. Hardaway became familiar with the Buoniconti Fund after being traded to the Heat in 1996.
“When you move to a city, you become the city,” Hardaway said. “You become a fan of the Miami Dolphins; you become a fan of whoever the teams are in Miami. I was always a big fan of the Miami Dolphins growing up with Mercury Morris, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and all those guys. When they told me about the Buoniconti foundation, all of us (with the Heat) were on board.”
Marc Buoniconti said he met Hardaway more than 20 years ago. Since then, Hardaway’s been an asset in helping raise money and awareness.
“Whenever we’ve needed him to come out for an event, do something, he said, ‘Anything I can to help,’” Buoniconti said.
Hardaway said the Buoniconti honor means a lot because he’s a part of a list of great athletes who have been honored, including Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Willie Mays and Serena Williams. He called the last few months “tremendous.”
“You’ve got to be humble and understand when to party, when not to party,” Hardaway said. “When to get down to business, but it’s just been a whirlwind type of situation.”
— The Athletic’s Tim Cato contributed to this report.
(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)