Hall of Fame debate: KJ vs. Hardaway

VIDEO: The Hardaways through the years


They played the same position (point guard) at the same time (late-1980s to early-2000s) at the same high level (All-Star appearances) and were teammates for a summer, so it’s easy to see the 24 anonymous voters stacking Tim Hardaway against Kevin Johnson among the Class of 2014 decisions, even if it isn’t actually a balloting one-on-one. Both could make it to Springfield, Mass., or both could miss. Neither outcome would be a surprise in a year with the opening of several credible candidates — but no automatic — among the eight finalists from the North American committee.

Johnson, on the ballot since 2011, made it out of the initial round of voting for the first time, forward progress that can equal optimism for candidates in the search for hints in a secret election process. Hardaway, meanwhile, can find hope in the sustained support of being a finalist for the second year in a row.

But head-to-head, as part of the analysis by the 24 voters?

Johnson: Played 1987-88 through 1999-2000 with the Cavaliers and Suns, with 1998-99 spent in retirement. Averaged 17.9 points, 9.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds. Finished in the top five in assists four times, the top 10 six times. Second-team All-NBA four times, third-team once. All-Star three times. No NBA titles, 105 playoff games. Most Improved Player in 1988-89. Won a gold medal with the United States at the 1994 world championships.

Hardaway: Played 1989-90 through 2002-03 with the Warriors, Heat, Mavericks, Nuggets and Pacers. Averaged 17.7 points, 8.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds. Finished in the top five in assists four times, the top 10 eight times. First-team All-NBA once, second-team three times, third-team once. All-Star five times. No NBA titles, 56 playoff games. First-team all-rookie. Won a gold medal with the United States at the 2000 Olympics and the 1994 world championships.

Johnson: Sixth all-time in assists per game. The five ahead of him are either in the Hall of Fame now (Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas) or will be (Chris Paul). Among the rest of the top 10, No. 8 Jason Kidd and No. 9 Steve Nash also will be, with No. 7 Deron Williams needing a big turnaround and No. 10 Rajon Rondo needing more time. Hardaway is 12th. That is a big boost to the KJ campaign, with the counterweight that Mark Jackson was third in total career assists and received so little support three years in a row that he dropped off the ballot.

Hardaway: In a historic time in NBA history for guards — Michael Jordan, Magic, Stockton, Gary Payton, with Kidd coming fast — Hardaway was the only one to get a first-team All-NBA. That was 1996-97, when he joined Jordan at the top, with Payton and Mitch Richmond, another finalist this year, second-team and Stockton and Penny Hardaway on the third tier. The one time they both made the honor role, 1992-92, Tim Hardaway was second-team, Kevin Johnson third-team. (The three years before that, KJ made second when the only guards ahead of him where Magic and Jordan. Ranking high on the Best of the Rest level in that era has always been one of the unique selling points for Kevin Johnson in the Hall.)

Same position and same era — that’s a great compare and contrast for the Hall panelists heading toward the April 7 announcement of inductees, with 18 of 24 needed to join David Stern (Contributor), Sarunas Marciulionis (International), Bob Leonard (ABA), Guy Rodgers (Veterans) and Nat Clifton (Early African American Pioneers) as previously disclosed members of the Class of 2014. Spencer Haywood, Alonzo Mourning, Richmond and college coaches Nolan Richardson, Eddie Sutton and Gary Williams are the other finalists from the North American committee.


  1. 2RealTho says:

    After reading through all of the HOF list, there is NO WAY either of these NBA players should be in there before Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. All 3 players were hurt alot BUT Penny set dominance in his player style AND overall persona. I can name plenty more from the 90s era I would put before Kevin Johnson and Tim Hardaway. Shawn Kemp, Isisah Rider, and the list goes on…….Not to take anything from these players BUT there are better candidates.

  2. marlon green says:

    I think they really need to clarify what exactly gets you in the hall of fame. I think that would make voting alot easier. I really like both of these players and they were really good but neither one of them has won a championship or was really the franchise player on their teams. Now if your looking at MVP awards, championships or any league leading awards then I would say they shouldn’t get in. But if your just looking at really good careers with a few gold medals and all star appearances then yes. Once again, I’m not hating on neither one of them because I am a fan of both of them. But it just depends on what the voters feel should get players inducted. And to today your clearly not old school because if you were really from that era back then you would know what the utep 2 step means. lol

  3. carmelool says:

    lol hardaway junior is good as his father, penny hardaway was a superstar

  4. SunsFanByron says:

    I think KJ should gets into HOF. He was the reason I became an NBA and Phoenix fan since 20 years ago. As I have watched so many point guards played in the NBA, I still can’t think of one who can break the defense down like he did one-on-one. He was like a dagger to a net, that was my impression on KJ. He and Nash was the top two point guards who ever played for Phoenix. It was KJ who defined the Suns’ style of play. After his retirement, the Suns just keep building the team around point guards (Kidd / Marbury / Nash / Dragic / Bledsoe). He was the only one in the team’s history to ever bring the team to the Finals. KJ is still loved by the Phoenix Suns fans until today. And let’s be reminded that he never played for another team after being acquired from Cleveland. And more credits to him, after his retirement from the NBA, he is still contributing to the league by keeping the King in Sacramento. So I let you guys to decide who is more deserving to get into the HOF.

  5. Mark says:

    As soon as K.Johnson arrived I had him at the I.Thomas level! A 1992 Dream Team possibility ahead of Isiah!
    Overall, its a close call, but he’s just outside my top 50.
    T.Hardaway is just a little way back from that level, both HOF material.

  6. Adrian says:

    My Vote Is for Kevin Johnson………First Step made him unstoppable. When we wanted to take it to the hole, he could….anytime……at will. That’s greatness, thats HOF-worthy.

  7. Uncle Daddy says:

    Tim Hardaway is definitely a HOFer. If Run-TMC would have had a few more years and another piece or two, they would have got a championship for Golden State.

  8. TC says:

    I think both TH and KJ are hall of famers. Both were top 5 PG’s for most of their careers. Both played on winning teams pretty much every season. KJ was arguably the most underrated player of his era.

    Looking at where the line is being drawn now with Reggie Miller, Mel Daniels, Ralph Sampson, Chris Mullin, Jamal Wilkes, Chet Walker and Artis Gilmore as recent inductees, they definitely belong with that group.

  9. Oneeyedguy says:

    I don’t think that either should get in. They were both really good and produced great highlights. But neither attained greatness. The HOF should be for the greats. Not the really good.

  10. eric says:

    How about both

  11. Gus says:

    Loved watching both of them play. They were both fierce competitors. They both played in an era full of MEGA Superstars. They weren’t mega stars, but they do need to be acknowledged as all time great players. They both deserve to be in.

  12. Jeff says:

    Hardway was hurt a lot too, of course. Man it’s a tough call. Off the top of my head I was thinking Hardaway was the sure thing and KJ was a longshot. Now I think they’re both right in the middle. Eventually they’ll probably both get in. Not great, but very very very good players.

  13. 4pt.Range says:

    The basketball gods have spoken……..”They both go in HoF.”

  14. Jeff says:

    I think KJ was just hurt too much. He never played all 82. He played in a good percentage of his games for the first five years, but his last seven “seasons,” he played 49, 67, 47, 56, 70, 50, and 6.

  15. Rebel G says:

    KJ’s dunk on Hakeem the Dream should put him over the top if it comes down to a comparison on those two.

    Hardaway was an awesome power guard, but KJ had one of the best moves of a pick where he’d split defenders and end up at the rim.

    KJ all the way !!!

  16. gary says:

    As I remember KJ was also a great defender, Hardaway, not so much, and defense is 1/2 the game

  17. Makin' it RAIN 3's says:

    Tim Hardaway Jr. is a beast! He will win 4 sure

  18. JBR says:

    Both deserve it, but a lack of championships will hurt them both.

    But if I could only choose one of them, KJ all the way!

  19. Mayley in Detroit says:

    My vote is for KJ!!!

  20. Najeero says:

    Hell, they should let the both of them in just because.

  21. Donald Trump says:

    would KJ be the first mayor in the hall of fame? (if elected) interesting..

  22. Tim Hardaway invented the Killer Crossover!

    • LeParisHilton James says:

      Chris Jackson (later converted into Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) from LSU had much better, faster crossover than Tim Hardaway. Tim was good but not as good as Mahmoud. Think, observe and learn before you say “UGuysJustDontUnderstand!” Other than that, both K.J and Tim deserve to be in. Two of the greats, wonderfull to watch them play.

  23. pokie says:

    KJ first just for his dunk on Olajuwon.

  24. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    I hope both of them got in eventually. Both KJ and Utep2step deserved it!