Anfernee Hardaway still full of the confidence that made the 1995 Orlando Magic

Anfernee Hardaway played for the Orlando Magic with a calm coolness that made him one of the most popular players in the league. That is still all there.

In a quiet moment toward the end of his appearance on the All The Smoke podcast, (Orlando Magic legend) Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson paused to appreciate Anfernee Hardaway.

It is easy to forget about Anfernee Hardaway. His peak was so short-lived because of injuries. There is not much saving him and keeping him in everyone’s memory.

Yes, the 1995 Magic are remembered and still incredibly popular among those who watched basketball in the mid-90s. They live on in This Magic Moment and on NBA 2K (the 1995 Magic remain the only classic Magic team in the game and Hardaway is an independently playable player in the MyTeam mode). But the memory of Hardaway’s play particularly has faded.

Anfernee Hardaway appreciated the gratitude and respect Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson showed him.

Magic fans certainly do not forget Hardaway. He is among the all-time greats in Magic history and remains one of the most popular players among the Magic legends.

His legacy nationally is set more as a legend and a whisper. A YouTube star that fans have to seek out to discover and is not part of the main story of NBA history.

Respect certainly needs to be paid.

Hardaway is still out here hustling to go get it and he is doing it with the same quiet confidence that made him such a killer on the court.

If you had listened to the rest of the podcast, you would not have known Hardaway’s career humbled him. He still had the swagger and confidence of someone ready to go.

Hardaway is still the same quietly confident player. Still not about to brag about himself in a showboating way, but sure of himself and his ability. And, more importantly, sure of his and his teammates’ capability.

He expressed plenty of confidence about the Magic’s ability to win a title if O’Neal and Hardaway stayed together.

Hardaway makes it pretty clear in the podcast (careful, it is NSFW at times) how much faith he had in his Magic team. He said the team knew when they acquired Horace Grant that they were ready to take the next step. There is just a feeling when you are on a close team.

The group had the confidence to beat the Chicago Bulls in the second round and felt confident entering the 1995 Finals.

Hardaway said the team was flying high and that confidence only grew when they went up by 20 in the first half. Hakeem Olajuwon was just on another level though. Shaquille O’Neal was not seasoned enough to go up against him.

But Hardaway still had a ton of confidence. He said he felt the team was going to run through the season and get back to the Finals. That was their year.

The Bulls were ultimately in the way. And Hardaway admitted contract uncertainty and injuries ultimately derailed the team. The Magic still won 60 games.

The Magic broke up after that. Hardaway believed the team would have won if they had stayed together.

But Anfernee Hardaway revealed some new details about his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal.

He said their relationship started well before the filming of Blue Chips. The two played together for Team USA. But Hardaway confirmed he purposefully tried to give O’Neal the ball during filming to make sure O’Neal knew he would feed him the ball.

Hardaway also revealed the O’Neal departure did not catch him completely by surprise. He was surprised by what was being written and what fans were saying leading into his free agency, but he had a feeling O’Neal sought the bigger market like Los Angeles for his business interests.

Hardaway still had the confidence to lead the team. He expected to be able to carry the Magic.

He did for a time. But that was his ruin.

Hardaway said he played through an injury during the 1997 season and kept playing through it heading into the 1998 season when he finally had to give in and get it looked at — he had torn his meniscus and underwent his first knee surgery.

Through it all, Hardaway seemed very at peace with his career. He wanted to return home to Memphis to make an impact in his community. As the current coach of the Memphis Tigers, he hopes he is doing so.

And Hardaway’s playing legacy has lasted longer than even he probably could have expected.

That cool confidence is still there. That is what made Hardaway such a great player.

Next: Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag: Playing all the hits

That never seemed to go away.

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