Horace Grant is one of the most blessed big men to play in the NBA simply because he had the luxury of playing with some of the greatest talents such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Penny Hardaway. However, when asked who to pick between Kobe and Penny, Grant’s choice was surprising.
Grant as Penny’s teammate in Orlando
Horace Grant played for the Orlando Magic for seven seasons and for five of those, Penny Hardaway was his point guard. It may seem strange to you now, but at that time, Hardaway was one of the biggest young stars in the NBA. Before Penny’s injuries, he was projected to have a Kobe-like career – an all-time great. When asked if Penny had as much talent as Kobe, Grant didn’t hesitate one second.
”Without a doubt! 6’7”, 6’8”, could see the floor, three-pointers, drive to the basket, assist – his all-around game was [amazing].“Horace Grant, Grantland
As a Magic player, Anfernee averaged 19 points, 6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds, and was a four-time All-Star. If Shaq stayed in Orlando, their tandem could have achieved something special – Shaq admitted leaving Hardaway and Orlando is his biggest career regret. Penny, before the injuries, was out of this world – a 6’7” point guard who could also play the shooting guard and small forward positions. Penny was lightning fast and could pass out of any position. Some say he was a mix of LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Tracy McGrady. Penny was that good. His game had flair, but he was willing to make the extra pass.
Grant as Kobe’s teammate in Lakers
Grant followed Shaq to the Lakers and played there for two seasons. He won a ring with the Lakers in 2001 when they beat the Philadelphia 76ers. Having played with a young Penny and Kobe, Horace was asked who he preferred playing with
“They were both fine with me man. If I had to pick, I would say Penny. Penny, you can go up and say, ’Yo, Penny, I need a couple of shots, man.’ ‘Ok, alright, imma get you the ball.‘ Kobe would say, ‘Hey, get it off the rebound’.”Horace Grant, Grantland
The 4-time champion also believes that Penny could reach Kobe’s success if not for injuries. Kobe was known as a scorer who was more than willing to carry the team on his back to win. For Hardaway, he could get his own but was also a willing passer. Kobe not trusting his teammates enough to make plays often resulted in locker room altercations with teammates. This probably explains why Grant averaged the lowest points in his career as a Laker.
Bryant was cut from the same cloth as Michael Jordan: teammates had to earn their trust. Horace Grant had no time to earn that trust with Kobe, particularly in that stage of Bryant’s career. Still, you could see he had love and respect for Kobe, it wasn’t about that. This answer was more about one of the greatest injury what-ifs in NBA history. Penny Hardaway was a beast.