Anfernee Hardaway or Tracy McGrady? Darrell Armstrong weighs in

Darrell Armstrong gives Tracy McGrady a high five after the Orlando Magic's 83-74 win over the Houston Rockets on April 8, 2002. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Darrell Armstrong gives Tracy McGrady a high five after the Orlando Magic's 83-74 win over the Houston Rockets on April 8, 2002. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. /

With Tracy McGrady heading to the Hall of Fame and the Orlando Magic all-time team featured in NBA2K18, Darrell Armstrong weighed in on a great Magic debate.

Orlando Magic history is back in the spotlight this week with the release of NBA2K18. Fans will get their hands on the long-awaited All-Time Orlando Magic team featuring Anfernee Hardaway and Tracy McGrady in the starting lineup.

Undoubtedly, Anfernee Hardaway and Tracy McGrady represent the two best perimeter players in Magic history. And since McGrady could play either wing position and Hardaway could play either guard position, there has never been much debate about where they belong on the All-Time Magic team. They could always play together.

But now that McGrady has cemented his legacy in basketball as a Basketball Hall of Famer. As time goes on, maybe there will be some debate about the two players.

Hardaway, after all, is not likely to make the Hall of Fame since injuries dramatically cut his career short. Basketball-Reference’s Hall of Fame predictor tool gives him just a 28.7 percent chance of making the hall. Considering he has not played in the league since 2008, it is not likely he is going to get a push for the Hall.

Yet, take just his time and career with the Magic and there is no doubt he was on a Hall of Fame track.

Both Hardaway and McGrady rank among the greatest Magic players of all time. McGrady will likely join Hardaway in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame very soon.

So which player was actually better?

Really only a few players can answer this question. And one specifically probably can answer it better than most. That would be the former Magic point guard and fan favorite Darrell Armstrong.

Armstrong played for the Magic from 1995-2003. He played alongside Hardaway when he broke into the league in his first five seasons and then with McGrady as he continued to establish himself as a quality starting point guard from 2001-03. If anyone could accurately weigh in, it is Armstrong.

And Armstrong is siding with Hardaway.

In an interview with Brandon Robinson of RESPECT Magazine and Scoop B Radio, Armstrong said he would take Hardaway because of his all-around game:

"“Both of them could play defense and both of them could score,” Armstrong said. “Definitely Penny was the better passer because  Penny was a point guard. Mac could still pass the ball as well, that is hard to say Scoop. They both did it in their own way and in their own style. The only thing I will say, that Penny was better than T-Mac was passing the basketball. Like I said, they both could shoot the basketball, they both could score the basketball, that is a tough one to say. Penny went deeper in the playoffs, farther than T-Mac has ever been; besides being with T-Mac with Spurs, but he didn’t play. But when he played, you know Penny and he in the playoffs, Penny, you know Penny lost in the championship as a starter. So I mean it is hard to say if there is any edge the edge I give to Penny over T-Mac is that he was a better passer than he was.”"

The margins are indeed razor thin between these two players. It is hard to find much fault in Armstrong’s analysis.

McGrady’s career was noted for his inability to get out of the first round. But give Tracy McGrady a player like Shaquille O’Neal and he might have had more success. After Shaquille O’Neal left the Magic, Anfernee Hardaway never got out of the first round again too. And like McGrady, Hardaway put up incredible numbers in the Playoffs alone. His back-to-back 40-point performances to stave off elimination in the 1997 Playoffs are still two of the greatest Playoff performances in Magic history.

The tale of the tape does not leave much room either.

McGrady averaged 28.1 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game and 5.2 assists per game with a 48.4 percent effective field goal percentage in four years with the Magic. Those are not shabby numbers, especially considering his massive usage. McGrady was a four-time All-Star with the Magic and a two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

Hardaway averaged 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game with a 50.7 percent effective field goal percentage in six seasons with the Magic. He struggled with knee and ankle injuries that sapped a lot of his supreme athleticism in his later years with the Magic. But he still produced, averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.3 assists per game in the lockout-shortened 1999 season, his final with the Magic.

Hardaway was also a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

The margin between these two players in Magic history is indeed very tight. Armstrong’s general statement that Hardaway was a better passer proves true. But probably not as much as the narrative might think. McGrady was also a supremely gifted passer.

Last year, Orlando Magic Daily staff writers compiled their rankings of the best players in Magic history. We ranked Hardaway as the third best player in Magic history over McGrady at No. 4.

Armstrong certainly is not off base to take Hardaway over McGrady. But differing minds can certainly disagree. And this may remain one of the greatest debates among Magic historians.

Magic fans will get their fill of Hardaway, McGrady and Armstrong with the release of NBA2K18 next week (pre-ordered copies are out now). For the first time since he retired, Armstrong is included in the game as on the all-time Orlando Magic team and in the MyTeam mode.

Next: Tracy McGrady deserves his Hall of Fame honor

Fans can now settle the McGrady-Hardaway debate on the virtual floors.