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The Shadow of a Name: How Tim Hardaway Jr. has formed his basketball identity

Marissa McClain/Daily
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By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 30, 2011

The doors on the all-white BMW 645Ci slammed shut, beginning the short journey home that would feel like an eternity.

The father, who had all the glory any man could hope for, was in the driver’s seat, casually turning the wheel in rhythm with the Miami streets. The son, a 16-year-old child trying to forge his own story in the shadow of his very name, leaned against the door of the passenger’s seat, with nothing to say.

It was like after any other of the son’s high school basketball games. He won or he lost, and he and his father climbed into the luxury car without saying a word, draped in an oppressive silence.

And it wasn’t just after games — going to or from practice, school, a workout, anything over the last couple years. Every drive short. Every one of them quiet.

There should’ve been no reason for the iciness. This was Miami — beaches, celebrities, glitz. How could anyone be upset driving around such a place, one whose very essence lifts a person’s spirits? Waiting at the end of the drive was a beautiful home, complete with an outdoor pool, a picturesque patio and a basketball court; there, too, was an otherwise happy family, a mother and sister who were always ready to support and love.

It was balmy outside, but inside the car was a Michigan winter.

Looking back at it three years later, the son couldn’t even remember whether he had won or lost the game that night. He didn’t know how many points he scored, how many rebounds he grabbed or how he played defensively. All that stuck with him was what the father said to his 16-year-old on that trip — that trip that began so disappointingly similar to all the ones before it.

It seemed like nothing was going to change. The problems of the past and present seemed bound to the future.

The father began to speak.

***

Tim Hardaway Sr. was mostly known for his killer crossover dribble.

They called it the “UTEP two-step” when he played for the Miners from 1985-89. With the NBA's Golden State Warriors, he formed the famous “Run TMC” trio with Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin.

Hardaway was traded to the Heat in the middle of the 1995-96 season, prompting him to settle down in Miami. He was First Team All-NBA the next season and was a five-time All-Star, the last appearance coming in 1997-98 when Tim Jr. was five years old.

Tim Jr. played other sports as a kid, but basketball always loomed. It was his best game, and Tim Sr. certainly didn't mind having him play it. After a freshman year football experiment, Tim Jr. began to concentrate exclusively on his father’s sport.

From the beginning, Tim Sr.’s career loomed over his son. Other kids at school would tease him about his father, saying he was nowhere near as good as his dad. At times it got to him, but his parents told him to ignore it — the other kids were just jealous.

By the time he reached Palmetto High School, though, the taunts of his classmates turned into the barbs of his own father.

Tim Sr. knew how to play and knew what Tim Jr. needed to do to be successful. He had the answers, and he didn’t hesitate to criticize his son when he felt like he wasn’t playing as well as he should have been — as well as he played at that age. Unfortunately for Tim Jr., that was all the time.

His father was the ultimate obnoxious little league parent, except his angst wasn’t directed at referees or coaches — it was directed at Tim Jr.

That’s why, on that fateful night during Tim Jr.’s junior year, when Tim Sr. finally opened his mouth, it was to apologize.

“I wasn’t being a parent, point blank,” Tim Sr. said “I was being a coach more than a parent. And it was tearing my home apart.”

The disparagement was constant and everywhere.

Tim Sr. would criticize his son on the way to practice, at practice and on the way home from practice. He’d do it on the way to games, during games while he sat close to Palmetto’s bench and on the way home from games.

He’d do it at home, upsetting his wife, Yolanda, and his young daughter, Nia, who would cry sometimes while the two men in the family had it out.

“You’re not trying hard enough,” he’d tell Tim Jr. “Quit taking so many bad shots. Stop forgetting your technique. Start making the extra pass.”

At times, it got so bad that father and son wouldn’t speak for three or four days. The car rides became so bad that finally Tim Jr.


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