Tim Hardaway is back in the news, this time making a new claim that his anti-gay, reputation-destroying rant in 2007 is the reason he’s not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. With this year’s finalists already announced, he won’t be inducted into the Hall in 2019 either.
If that is in fact the reason, it’s time for that to change.
The gay comments Tim Hardaway made in 2007 were really bad
To set the stage, it was February of 2007. Former NBA player John Amaechi had just come out publicly as gay, and he had seen a healthy dose of support from current and former NBA players. That’s when Dan Le Batard asked Hardaway about Amaechi. After saying he wouldn’t want a gay player on his team, Hardaway said the words that have haunted him ever since:
Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. 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.
The NBA essentially ended its relationship with him. The ABA did the same. Hell, he had to remove his name from a car wash he owned, because his name was toast.
Hardaway learned about his mistake
Yet Hardaway did something we don’t always see. He realized he’d screwed up, and he went on a quiet journey, away from the cameras, to learn more. He worked with local LGBTQ groups in Florida. He interacted with the community in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. He listened. And he even gave back, putting his name behind pro-LGBTQ policies and legislation.
After years of listening and reflecting, he spoke out in favor of building bridges with the community, taking responsibility for his statement and healing the harm he once did.
Along that path I felt the whole way like he wasn’t doing anything to say, “See I’m a changed man,” or to draw attention to himself. It felt genuine, sustained over a long period of time, only talking to the media, it seemed to me, when it helped bring attention to the community he was trying to help.
Heck, in 2013 he was the first signatory to a Florida petition to legalize same-sex marriage.
That’s quite a distance to come in six years.
There are homophobes in sports who have shown no remorse for their destructive actions. Tony Dungy has never apologized for raising money to fight against basic equality for gay people. Heck, he’s doubled down on his very public homophobia in the last few years.
That’s not Hardaway, who has learned, reflected and corrected. What he said in 2007 is truly a part of his past.
Hardaway was never a Hall of Fame slam dunk
With all of that said, Tim Hardaway isn’t in the Hall of Fame in part because he’s not a slam dunk for the Hall.
He never won an NBA title. Obviously that’s not a litmus test for induction (ahem, Karl Malone). But... he certainly wasn’t the Mailman.
In total career NBA points Hardaway was... No. 131.
Of course, as a point guard he’s judged equally on assists, and he’s top-20 in his career in that stat.
If Tim Hardaway is supposed to be in the Hall of Fame, then you could make the argument for Sam Cassell or Kevin Johnson or Mark Jackson, or a bunch of other guys who aren’t there.
Getting into a Hall of Fame is designed to be really tough.
If voters are wary of inducting him into the Hall of Fame because of those 90 ill-advised seconds on the radio in which he said some horrible things, it’s time for them to move on.
Hardaway has taken ownership of his mistake. He has turned around his perspective. He has helped the LGBTQ-rights movement on a number of occasions.
If voters think his 14 seasons in the NBA are Hall of Fame material, I will personally applaud his induction.
If Dungy, with a less-stellar career on the field and a more-hate-filled career off the field, can be in a sports hall of fame, Hardaway certainly can be in one as well.