Tall point guards and players that dictate an offense used to be a real rarity in the NBA, as everybody over a certain height was instructed to go down low and do the dirty work. There was no way coaches would let a guy over 6’3-6’4 play point guard; it was considered a waste. The first player to break that mold was the great Earvin “Magic” Johnson. A 6’9” point guard that revolutionized the game of basketball.
His flashy style of play, uniqueness, and charisma inspired many other players to think outside of the box and develop their game in another way. One of them was Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who reminded people a lot of Magic with his lanky 6’7” stature and flashy style of play from the point guard position. In a bit from the ’90s, Penny spoke about how Magic influenced him and became his idol.
“Everybody wanted to be Magic. Everybody wanted to throw fancy passes. He wanted to win so bad, but he always had fun; he’s always smiling, he always appeals to the crowd, he always wanted the crowd to be in it because he knew that’s what the team fed off, so he was smart in that aspect. … That was my idol growing up, and he was the guy I really wanted to be like, he was the guy to set the tone for guys like myself to come into the game and play point guard being over 6’5” and I was just telling him that it was just great to be out on the court at the same time as him.”Penny Hardaway
When Penny came into the NBA in 1993, Magic was retired because of his illness, and he had given up hope to play against his idol. But his wishes got granted in 1995 when Magic came back for one more season. Even though he was 36 and out of his prime, Penny couldn’t hide his excitement, finally seeing his idol in person, guarding him, and talking with him.
At the time, Penny was one of the rising stars in the NBA on the way to becoming one of the best players of his era. But numerous injuries stopped him from reaching his ceiling and maybe even getting close to the status of a Magic Johnson. Still, you can argue that both of these players’ influence is felt in today’s game, as we have so many tall offense initiators like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons or LeBron James dominating the game.