Basketball great Tim Hardaway says he’s still paying for an anti-gay rant on a radio show more than a decade ago. In fact, he says it’s the sole reason he’s not in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hardaway, 52, played for five separate NBA franchises but spent the bulk of his career playing for the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat. He was a five-time All Star during his 13-year career and a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
According to ESPN, the explosive point guard averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists per game over the course of his career. He was best known for his crossover, which allowed him to juke defenders and find a way to get to the basket unimpeded.
Hardaway, along with Warrior teammates Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, were part of the “Run TMC” trio that revitalized the Golden State franchise with their fast-paced style of play and became the highest-scoring trio of any NBA team for the 1990-1991 season. Both Richmond and Mullin are in the Hall of Fame.
Speaking to Hoops Hype, Hardaway talked about how much it would mean to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, saying the honor “solidifies your career and everything that you accomplished on the court.” But he also speculated that the reason he’s never been indicted despite being named a finalist for the Hall of Fame five times is because of anti-gay comments he made on a Miami-area sports radio station WAXY-AM in 2007.
“[T]he reason I’m not in is because of what I said in 2007 about gay people,” Hardaway told Hoops Hype. “That’s why I’m not in right now, and I understand it. I hurt a lot of people’s feelings and it came off the wrong way and it was really bad of me to say that.”
In that 2007 appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show, Hardaway was asked about how he’d react to having a gay teammate, in response to former NBA player John Amaechi recently coming out as gay.
“First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team,” Hardaway responded. “And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that’s right. And you know I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we’re in the locker room. I wouldn’t even be a part of that.”
Hardaway also told Le Batard he “hated” gay people, adding: “I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”
Following the comments, Hardaway was banned from the league’s All-Star festivities. He later apologized for the comments and has worked with LGBTQ groups to fight for equality measures.
But Hardaway told Hoops Hype that he’s “turned a wrong into a right” since making those comments.
“My parents used to always tell me, ‘If you do something wrong, look it in the eye. Don’t back down from it and be scared of it. Go make it right and make people understand that you made a mistake.’ And that’s what I did,” Hardaway said.
“I’m trying to do what’s right, supporting gay people and transgender people. I want people to understand [what they go through] and understand them as people. They shouldn’t be seen as ‘other” people,” he added. “You shouldn’t call them [derogatory names] or look at them all ugly. Those are people too. They should get to live their lives just like we live our lives and that means having freedom and having fun. They should get to enjoy their life the way they’re supposed to enjoy life… I’ve talked to people from the LGBTQ community [and I tell them], ‘You’re supposed to have the same rights that we have and supposed to be able to do everything that we do. You shouldn’t be outcast.'”
Hardaway added that even though he understands his comments have kept him from being inducted, there’s nothing he can do other than accept the consequences.
“You got to take your bumps and bruises, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. “I just try to be positive. It hurts. But, hey, I understand the ramifications of [what I said]. I understand why I’m not in. All I can do is keep living. My parents also always told me, ‘You can’t control what you can’t control.'”