“The reason I’m not in is because of what I said in 2007 about gay people,” Hardaway asserted in an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. “That’s why I’m not in right now, and I understand it. I hurt a lot of people’s feelings and it came off the wrong way, and it was really bad of me to say that.”
Hardaway was referring to comments he made that year after former NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay. “Well, you know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” Hardaway said at the time on a radio show hosted by ESPN’s Dan Le Batard. “I don’t like gay people, and I don’t like to be around gay people.
"I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States. So, yeah, I don’t like it.”
Hardaway received an immediate and major backlash for those remarks, and it may have served as a wake-up call, although possibly not right away. A few days after making his remarks to Le Batard, he said of the LGBTQ community to ESPN’s Scoop Jackson, “I still don’t accept their lifestyle.”
However, Hardaway added he was aware that he “offended a lot of people and caused a lot of friction on a touchy subject,” and that “now it’s my job to make it right.” He proceeded to take steps to do just that, including going in 2011 to El Paso, where he was a standout at UTEP, to support efforts by the city’s mayor to offer domestic partnership benefits for gay and unmarried couples.
“I opened my eyes and went to counseling,” he told the El Paso Times then, and Hardaway followed it up in 2013 by becoming the first to add his name to a petition demanding that Florida legalize same-sex marriage. Shortly before doing that, he made a point of calling Jason Collins with a message of support after the latter came out as the first openly gay active male player in major U.S. professional sports.
Collins told The Washington Post in 2017 that while he was surprised to be contacted by the likes of then-president Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey after coming out, “Getting a call from Tim Hardaway is right up there, because I didn’t know he had changed as a human being, as far as being what happened with his comments when John came out, and now becoming an ally.”
“I’ve turned a wrong into a right,” Hardaway said in the HoopsHype interview. “I’m trying to do what’s right, supporting gay people and transgender people. I want people to understand [what they go through] and understand them as people.”
“Life is too short to be out here hating one another and trying to hurt one another. I understand that,” he added. “But, yeah, that’s the only reason I’m not in [the Hall of Fame] and I understand that. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Hardaway would certainly seem to have a case for induction: He was a five-time all-star and all-NBA selection who placed in the top 10 in MVP voting three times. He first came to prominence as a member of Golden State’s short-lived but legendary “Run TMC” trio, playing an up-tempo, perimeter-oriented style that presaged today’s game, before shifting gears dramatically in Miami and more than holding his own in grind-you-down wars with the 1990s Knicks, Pacers and, of course, Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
Both of his Run TMC cohorts, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, were voted to the Hall of Fame, and Hardaway’s career is quite comparable to theirs, all of which featured similar lengths and numbers of league honors. Hardaway scored fewer points than them, albeit with a healthy 17.7 average, but as a point guard he had far more assists and slots between them by advanced statistical measurements, including player efficiency rating and win shares.
However, Hardaway hasn’t been a finalist for the Hall of Fame since 2017, the third time he’d made it that far in the process only to fall short that year, despite the fact that it wasn’t the most star-studded class, with Tracy McGrady and George McGinnis as the best-known players.
Before getting the word in 2017 that he again would not be enshrined, Hardaway told The Post: “I can’t change nobody’s mind. I can’t do anything more than I have done."
He told HoopsHype that it “hurts” to not be in the Hall of Fame, but added: “Hey, I understand the ramifications of [what I said]. I understand why I’m not in. All I can do is keep living."
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