When retired NBA player Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway decided to help out and old friend, he never knew that it would lead to one of the most rewarding years of his life. That year is detailed in his new book “On These Courts: A Miracle Season that Changed a City, a Once-Future Star, and a Team Forever.” The Memphis, Tennessee native was raised by his grandmother in the city’s rough Binghampton neighborhood. When one of his oldest friends, Desmond Merriweather, the coach at Lester Middle School in Binghamton, was stricken with colon cancer, he asked Hardaway to take over his team.
Hardaway said yes, beginning the start of an incredible journey for him and the group of players who went on to win an improbable championship. After 15 years in the league, injuries retired him four years ago. He was trying to figure out his life after pro basketball when the opportunity arose.
“Lester Middle was an elementary school and high school that I went to years ago. They closed it down and reopened it as a middle school and I went back a couple years ago. One of my good friends was diagnosed with colon cancer and he was the coach. They gave him about 24 hours to live. He survived the cancer and started coaching again at Lester, and when he went back to coaching, he was still doing chemo and wasn’t strong enough to continue the head coaching job and he asked me to come over and help. The very first practice I went to, I kind of fell in love with the team and just stayed there from that point on.”
Hardaway didn’t just improve the basketball team standings, he also helped motivate the young men to do better in school and become more motivated overall.
“This is my old neighborhood which makes it even sweeter. I went back to my old school, where my mother went to school, where my whole family went to school. I’m coaching the kids of the people I grew up with and really trying to inspire and motivate them to do what they want to do in life.”
Hardaway credits the Boys and Girl’s Clubs and coaches there from keeping him from the drugs and gangs that menaced his neighborhood. Obviously, it paid off with his NBA career. Though his success with Lester might make him more attractive to college and even pro coaching opportunities, Hardaway says he enjoys working with elementary school kids.
“I really want to stay in the grass roots,” Hardaway says. “I really want to stay with middle school and elementary age kids because that’s where it all starts. I’m going to try to instill thiings in them when they’re younger. They are easier to teach when they are younger as well, because older guys they kind of think they know it all. I’d rather stay with the kids.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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