By Nick Shepkowski-
(CBS) By now you’ve heard the names people are comparing Derrick Rose to.
Grant Hill, Baron Davis, Danny Manning are all considered by most to be stars that were never able to reach their full potential because of knee or leg injuries. The name that feels especially similar to me was a brief star during my childhood but had the making of a legend.
Like Rose, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was an instant success in the NBA. He was the third overall draft pick out of Memphis. Originally selected by Golden State, he was dealt on draft night to Orlando in a deal that sent Chris Webber west. Some called him a mix of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. As great as either? No, but characteristics of both were what made Hardaway an immediate star.
He was runner up for Rookie of the Year before starting the All-Star game and being named to the All-NBA team twice each by the conclusion of his third season. Nike invested millions in him and launched the memorable “Lil’ Penny” campaign around him.
Rose won Rookie of the Year after being taken #1 overall out of Memphis. He was named an All-Star in year two and the league’s MVP in year three. He’s the current face of Adidas’ basketball campaign.
Hardaway missed over a quarter of his fourth NBA season, but in averaging 20.5 points and 5.6 assists per game, was again an All-Star starter.
Rose, coming off of his MVP season in 2010-11, struggled to stay healthy in year four (2011-12) as he missed 27 games that season because of everything from a strained groin and sprained toe to back spasms and an injury to his right foot. Even in missing this time he was an All-Star starter.
After year four it was just never the same for Hardaway. He was voted into the All-Star game in year five because of his popularity but started just 15 regular season games for Orlando while his average points per game dipped 4.1 points from the previous year. He would bounce back and play a full (lockout-shortened) 50-game season in 1999 but had what at the time was his career low in scoring at 15.8 points a night.
Rose sat out his fifth year due to the ACL injury but his sixth year has gone an eerily similar route of Penny’s fifth, in that Rose started just 10 games for the Bulls before being put on the shelf for the rest of the season. Rose was averaging a career low 15.9 points per game before his season ended, 5.9 fewer than he did his last season of play.
Hardaway would go on to play in Phoenix after they worked out a sign and trade deal with Orlando before the 1999-2000 season. Hardaway would play well in year one there, but he wasn’t the same player he once was with the Magic. He scored nearly 17 a night that first season but missed a quarter of the year with a foot injury.
The following year, his eighth in the league, was the final straw for Penny. He had two microfracture surgeries on his left knee and played in just four games. Upon returning the following year he was able to suit up in 80 games but started just 55 of those and averaged 12 points per game – a far cry from his 20+ points a night in Orlando.
Eventually Hardaway would play until he was 36 but struggle to do so, playing just 57 games between 2004-05 with New York and 2007-08 with Miami while averaging just 5.9 points a game in the process.
Rose is 25, the same age Hardaway was when he first started to miss significant time. Will the age work for or against Derrick’s favor? It’s the nearly $100 million question nobody knows but here’s to hoping Rose isn’t the next Penny.