Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker Line

words_Nick DePaula
images_Steve Mullholand

With Penny Hardaway immediately again within the information after expressing his need to return to the NBA in a veteran function, we figured we’d republish a portion of our unique interview from the autumn of 2008, initially featured in Situation 25. That November additionally marked our fifth 12 months Anniversary, and for the Sole Collector workforce, there couldn’t have been a greater interview to expertise. Learn alongside as Hardaway discusses how his legendary signature collection started, and in addition what he cherished most about every mannequin. Immediately simply additionally occurs to be his birthday — Blissful 39th Penny!

Initially revealed November, 2008 in Situation 25 of Sole Collector Journal.


Lengthy earlier than the riches and fame of the NBA entered his life, Penny Hardaway got here from humble beginnings, rising up simply 10 minutes south of the College of Memphis, then often called Memphis State, the place he all the time dreamed of in the future taking part in basketball. It was at Memphis the place he’d certainly go on to star through the early 1990s, after a highschool profession at close by Treadwell Excessive the place he put up a ridiculous statline of 36.6 factors, 10.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.9 steals and 2.Eight blocks per recreation. We’ll assume it wasn’t a lot of a race, as he was named the Parade Journal Nationwide Excessive Faculty Participant of The 12 months. As soon as a Tiger, he lead the workforce throughout his sophomore and junior seasons and was named an All-American in back-to-back years, coming into his personal as he averaged 22.Eight factors, 8.5 rebounds and 6.four assists per recreation in his last season. It might be the one two years he would play for Memphis, because the lure of the NBA proved too robust to withstand, and he was drafted third within the 1993 NBA Draft.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineSince he final performed within the league in 2007 for the Miami Warmth, [Notice I won’t call it a retirement, so don’t rule out a comeback!] he’s returned to his roots in Memphis, the place he’s presently having fun with his time away from the sport. He nonetheless holds a deep love for his hometown faculty and may nonetheless be discovered on the Memphis coaching facility, the place he performs in pick-up video games and lifts weights at the least 4 instances per week. In August of 2008, Penny donated $1 million to assist construct a 30,000-square-foot athletic Corridor of Fame constructing on campus that can bear his identify. He’s additionally devoted a bulk of his time to his love of golf, as he’ll hit the hyperlinks nearly day by day at his neighborhood course, which occurs to be the extremely esteemed championship TPC Southwind.

For this interview, Penny welcomed us into his Memphis-area residence, and in it we discovered not solely a style for positive artwork, sculptures and historic work, but additionally quite a lot of memorabilia from all through his profession. Upstairs lies each man’s dream room, as a number of flatscreen TVs in addition to billiards, ping pong and card tables are organized for an evening of sports activities and leisure. Whereas rows of reclining chairs and a projection display within the adjoining room are absolutely spectacular, it was the jerseys of each member of the 1996 Olympic Basketball squad and his Atlanta-earned Gold Medal framed alongside the partitions that really caught our consideration. It’s a second in Penny’s life that he’ll ceaselessly cherish, alongside his First Workforce All-NBA picks, many All-Star recreation appearances and 5 Nike sneakers bearing his iconic 1 Cent emblem. By charming us along with his on-court talents, in commercials and thru his iconic footwear, Penny has completed what few gamers have. It additionally gave us a lot to speak to him about.

Nick DePaula: Whenever you have been popping out of Memphis, you have been extremely touted, however have been there plenty of sneaker corporations coming after you earlier than your rookie season?
Penny Hardaway: Oh yeah, Converse was coming actual arduous as a result of that’s what we wore in faculty. It was actually between Converse and Nike. Converse had actually wished me as a result of I had performed with their footwear all through my faculty profession, however I used to be actually all the time a Nike man. In my dorm, I had all Nike footwear, however then on the ground we’d put on Converse. [laughs]

NDP: Did you put on Nike throughout highschool additionally?
Truly I wore Converse and Nike in highschool as effectively. The Weapons have been actually scorching with Larry Fowl and Magic Johnson sporting them, after which I began sporting Flights within the 10th and 11th grade from Nike.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: As soon as you bought to the league, have been there any gamers whose footwear you’d end up taking a look at, or did you speak to some other gamers that had their very own footwear like Michael, Shawn Kemp or Grant Hill?
I all the time was taking a look at Michael as a result of Michael all the time had a extremely distinctive shoe, and everybody was all the time ready for his shoe to come back out. I all the time admired him and his footwear.

NDP: When Michael got here out of retirement, there’s a well-known recreation within the 1995 Playoffs the place you each agreed to put on every others’ footwear, and also you wore the Jordan IX, and he was sporting your shoe, the Flight One. How
did that come about?

I didn’t assume he would do it, however when he first got here again, simply to see him within the footwear that I used to be sporting, I used to be like, “Wow!” I couldn’t ever imagine that he had them on. He may’ve simply worn any Jordans that evening, however it was simply loopy that he actually did put on my shoe, and I used to be simply trippin’. I might put on Jordans in any case again then simply because, however to see him in mine and the shoe that I used to be sporting was simply loopy.

NDP: How a lot did it imply that you just guys really went on to win that collection?
Oh it meant so much! We have been the one workforce to beat the Bulls with Michael Jordan within the Playoffs whereas they have been profitable championships. He gained six rings [in the 90s] however nobody beat him however us that one 12 months. And as a workforce, we have been the final workforce to ever beat him in a Playoff collection, and that’s only a nice a part of historical past.

NDP: Did he ever provide you with any recommendation, or did you ever ask for any recommendation about have a profitable shoe line or profession?
No, we by no means actually bought into something like that, however he was only a very nice man to me as a result of he revered my recreation, he revered how arduous I went, and he revered that I didn’t bow down and that I checked out it as competitors. He’s the best of all time, however I’m a competitor, so I used to be all the time making an attempt to go after him.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: Did you guys have any memorable exchanges you can recall?
The largest factor I ever bear in mind about Michael was on the ’97 All-Star once I was getting launched, when he really unsnapped my pants once I was getting launched. This was on the All-Star recreation, and I all the time thought that was fairly humorous. [laughs]

NDP: You first wore footwear just like the Air Up and the Flight One, however when did Nike method you and resolve that you’d be getting your very personal signature shoe?
My second 12 months within the league I had actually come into my very own, and I used to be performing some superb issues, positively with the blessings of God, and I simply took off! I had went from being simply common, I might say throughout my rookie season, to being First Workforce All-NBA and serving to to take our workforce to the Finals. After that, Nike was like, “You realize what, it’s time to get your personal shoe. You’ve grow to be a sufficiently big identify, and also you’ve actually earned it, so it’s time in your personal shoe.”

NDP: And on the time, what was it like seeing a field for the primary time that learn ‘Air Penny’ on the label?
Wonderful! It was simply superb. You could possibly by no means even dream of something like that. Your dream is all the time simply to make it to the NBA, and probably not to have your personal shoe or something exterior of that. However to have my very own shoe, that was simply one other dream that I had fulfilled.

NDP: What’d you assume the primary time you noticed the 1 Cent emblem?
I assumed it was sick! I assumed it was loopy, and it was simply this supped up 1 Cent signal, and the 1 was highlighted in blue, and it was simply loopy. Straight away I knew that that they had executed an incredible job with this emblem, and it was simply nice.

NDP: You have been fairly younger while you bought your first shoe. Did you ever get any jealousy from different gamers round that point?
No, in reality everybody all the time saved asking me for ’em! [laughs] All people loves this one [holds up Orlando Penny I] and all the time requested me, “Man how can I get these footwear!?” I’d simply say, “I don’t know, name Nike.” [laughs] It was simply such a terrific shoe, and it was additionally simply very comfy to put on. You realize it’s humorous, I simply noticed Corey Brewer sporting these [four] years in the past when he gained the championship at Florida, and I used to be like “Wow, that’s simply nice that individuals nonetheless put on this shoe.”

NDP: Do you may have a favourite shade your self?
This one proper right here is my favourite shade code. Although it was made for the Orlando Magic colours then, there’s nothing too loopy about it, and it simply appears to be like nice. I additionally actually just like the black, white and purple that they did a bit later.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: What did you first take into consideration the Li’l Penny industrial concept? Was that one thing that you just knew immediately could be large?
You realize what, I assumed it was going to be actually humorous, however I didn’t actually understand how massive it was going to get. Comedy simply sits effectively with lots of people while you add that humor into your commercials. Once I was doing the commercials, I used to be really laughing, so I knew that at the least individuals would assume they have been humorous. However I by no means anticipated it to get that massive.

NDP: What did you consider the extra critical commercials, like Michael all the time had an actual critical industrial for his footwear?
I actually preferred plenty of Michael’s commercials, however for me I identical to having that humor. I cherished “The LeBrons” that they only did, and other people don’t wish to see a critical industrial on a regular basis; they wish to giggle. However, Michael was a troublesome competitor, and that was simply who he was. With mine, it was extra of an alter-ego of me, as I used to be simply extra quiet, after which there was the alter-ego that was simply extra loopy.

Zac Dubasik: Whenever you discovered Li’l Penny could be voiced by Chris Rock, have been you excited?
I used to be! Again then we had Martin Lawrence, Damon Wayans and a few different comedians that basically wished to do it, however they have been asking for a fairly substantial sum of money, and immediately Chris Rock simply mentioned, “Okay, I’ll do it!” On the time, he had no concept that it was going to be that massive. He simply checked out it and thought, “That is going to be fairly candy working for Nike,” however it simply occurred to change into a lot greater than that, and it was nice to have him on board. He wasn’t as large then, both, as he’s now.

Steve Mullholand: Now, in fact, he in all probability would command a fairly large paycheck.
Oh, yeah. [laughs]

NDP: These different guys are in all probability wishing they’d’ve simply executed it, too.
Oh, for positive.

NDP: Was there something that you just labored with Eric Avar on when it comes to enhancing upon the Penny I for the subsequent 12 months with the Penny II?
No, I actually preferred that shoe. The II I additionally actually preferred as a result of I had it in three nice colours with the black and white, all-white after which white and blue. The II was my favourite one to put on as a result of it was extra comfy to me, and it was only a tighter comfortable match. The I used to be a little bit bit wider, and it was nonetheless a terrific shoe, however the II is a little more slender and turns into extra comfortable round my arches and have been in all probability my favorites.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: The II additionally included Zoom Air for the primary time. Was that one thing that you just requested or have been conversant in?
No, probably not, it was one thing that they put in there, and once I simply put them on, immediately I knew that it simply felt nice. It was a terrific shoe, and so they actually did an unbelievable job with this shoe.

Zac: They simply introduced the II again out; what’d you consider that shoe returning?
They bought out right here in Memphis instantly! Whenever you don’t have one thing for some time, you actually wish to get them again, and I’ve been seeing everybody round right here sporting them, and other people on the gymnasium taking part in ball in them, too. It’s simply nice seeing them once more.

NDP: Was the black colorway with the white foam piece one thing that Nike created or a glance that you just preferred?
It positively jogged my memory of the I, and that’s why we saved it comparable, however I cherished the best way it went up into the arch extra. I simply cherished the colour of it at any time when we did all-black with a white piece wrapping round, and it all the time labored out very nice.

NDP: Was transferring the brand from the heel to the tongue one thing that you just wished?
Yeah, I wished that as a result of that Jordan emblem was all the time on the tongue, and I assumed having the 1 Cent emblem on the tongue could be very nice.

NDP: After which when the Foamposite hit …
Silly! [laughs] These are silly proper right here. [holds up the Foamposite One] Once I first began sporting them, the league instructed me I needed to put black [in the ridges] with a Sharpie as a result of it wasn’t a highway shoe underneath the principles. So all by way of the ridges that they had put black markings, however this shoe was nonetheless simply silly. It was simply ridiculous, simply loopy.

NDP: Was the NBA near fining you?
Yeah, they immediately mentioned, “When you don’t get extra black on these footwear, then we’re going to should positive you.” I simply figured we must always go forward and get extra black on the stripes of the shoe and never get fined. The humorous factor was the stripes would peel off and put on off by the center of each recreation in any case, however at the least initially of the sport it regarded just like the shoe was extra black and the league was comfortable. [laughs]

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker Line

NDP: Do you bear in mind the primary time Nike confirmed them to you?
Yeah! I used to be identical to, “Oh my god! What’s that?” I believe I noticed the white one first really, however I simply cherished the clear backside immediately together with the black alongside the highest. It was only a loopy shoe, and I had by no means seen something prefer it in my life.

Zac: What was your response to the worth?
They have been near $200, and that was simply loopy. 100 eighty {dollars} for a pair of footwear was quite a bit.

NDP: Whenever you have been rising up, may you think about asking your mother for a $180 shoe?
No! There was no manner I might’ve gotten them rising up, however hey, a ton of individuals bought them, and so they bought a ton. And even now, individuals all the time wish to see these re-dropped as many instances as potential. This [original] shade specifically, everybody simply cherished, although. It was excellent. The emblem on the heel, the little Swoosh right here on the toe and the colour was simply loopy.

NDP: Was there something totally different within the really feel of the shoe as a result of it was a Foamposite?
It was only a totally different really feel general due to the fabric that was on your complete shoe. It was a extra comfortable match, and it was additionally a bit extra slender. It didn’t even actually matter at the moment, although. It doesn’t matter what, I used to be going to put on it as a result of they have been simply so totally different and loopy.

NDP: Did you ever play towards Michael on the time in these and cease to remind him, “Hey, my footwear price greater than yours now!” [laughs]
Nah, trigger what he would say was, “Yeah, OK, however I’ve a constructing.” He had a constructing at Nike already, so I knew higher than to say that. [laughs]

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: Did you ever speak with Shaq in any respect about his footwear, as a result of he had some fairly loopy Reeboks on the time while you have been on the Magic collectively?
I didn’t actually assume any shoe on the market, regardless of who it was, may match Nike. I wouldn’t actually even care what everybody else was sporting ’trigger I knew these have been so candy that it didn’t even matter.

NDP: With the Penny III, they went again to a principally leather-based shoe, however how vital was it to maintain the Foam alongside the perimeters of the shoe?
Oh it was crucial, as a result of once they made these, it was totally different than something I had ever had when it comes to the type of it, however I additionally knew immediately that it was a rugged shoe that I felt like I may do so much in. They have been comfy as all the time, and I actually loved this shoe for positive.

NDP: All your footwear had the interior bootie; was that one thing you all the time requested for?
Precisely. That was one thing I all the time preferred to have because it match higher and gave you that good comfortable match. I additionally actually preferred [the elastic bands] as a result of it was distinctive how the lacing was arrange, however it labored for the match of the shoe, too.

NDP: What do you bear in mind concerning the Frozen Second industrial for this shoe?
Oh that was one of the best. It was in gradual movement on the park and Li’l Penny was blowing a bubble, after which setting off the rocket. These have been all simply too humorous.

Steve: How a lot enjoyable was it doing these commercials? Was it plenty of work?
Oh no, it was really very easy, and I all the time wished to do them as a result of I knew how a lot everybody cherished them.

NDP: Would you simply do them in in the future?
Effectively, it relies upon, as a result of generally we might simply shoot the entire commercials in a couple of week. Typically I might simply go to L.A. for the entire week, and we’d do the entire commercials without delay. These commercials have been simply nice, and everybody cherished them.

NDP: Whenever you went onto the Penny IV, there was now not any Foamposite, however did you continue to like how this shoe turned out?
I really actually cherished this shoe so much. Every thing was executed effectively, and I preferred how you bought in it and simply have been strapped in. The 1 Cent emblem was on the center of the tongue, a bit larger, and that was one of the best, although. I cherished that. Additionally they had “Penny” written on the tongue for the primary time. These have been loopy, too, like all my different ones.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: His Legendary Signature Sneaker LineNDP: How concerned would you get with Eric, and at what level would he present you the subsequent shoe?
Effectively, they’d come to me all the time with a base shoe already executed, after which we’d work collectively to make modifications based mostly on what I preferred and didn’t like. However actually, there was by no means something that I ever needed to change as a result of each one in all them they honestly did a terrific job. There is likely to be some individuals’s footwear on the market the place you might be simply left sort of feeling, “Ugh, they only look OK I suppose,” however with my footwear, I by no means felt that manner about any of the footwear they ever made for me. I additionally actually cherished the suede on the footwear that wrapped over. And one thing else I all the time wished to have was the little itty bitty Nike swooshes on the shoe as an alternative of an even bigger in-your-face Swoosh.

NDP: Have been you fairly vocal about maintaining the Penny emblem all the time the identical measurement because the Swoosh, if not larger?
Effectively, that’s simply what it was all about: Me. [laughs] So I all the time felt it needed to present that it was me and it was my shoe. I might quite have that all the time. It’s sort of like a Tiger Woods golf shirt, the way you’ll all the time see the TW emblem as massive because the Swoosh, so you recognize it’s his shirt. They did a terrific job with branding my shoe, although. I by no means needed to complain and say, “Hey man, this wants one other 1 Cent emblem on it,” or something like that, as a result of that they had already executed a terrific job with every shoe.

Interview With Penny Hardaway: Original Sketch of Penny IV