Penny Hardaway never actually said that Kawhi Leonard isn't a superstar

Ball Don't Lie
It would be reasonable to criticize Penny Hardaway for saying <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4896/" data-ylk="slk:Kawhi Leonard">Kawhi Leonard</a>’s not a superstar … if he’d said that. (AP)
It would be reasonable to criticize Penny Hardaway for saying Kawhi Leonard’s not a superstar … if he’d said that. (AP)

Former NBA All-Star and current Memphis high school basketball coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway found himself in a bit of hot water on Monday, thanks to the circulation of comments attributed to him from a recent radio interview in which he seemed to give short shrift to San Antonio Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard:

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Here’s the quote that began making the rounds Sunday and arched eyebrows on Monday:

Superstar? No, Kawhi Leonard is not a superstar because he has no interest in being the face of the league or starring in TV commercials. He’s a good player, but I wouldn’t consider him a superstar player.

As you might expect, that elicited some sharp rebukes from those who dispute the claim that Leonard is merely “a good player.” Knock Leonard’s famous reticence to show much/any emotion if you want — although it’s worth noting that Kawhi is showing up in local and national ads — but it seems like awful harsh grading to consider a player who has finished second and third in Most Valuable Player voting in the last two seasons, who has twice won Defensive Player of the Year honors, and who’s fresh off two straight appearances on the All-NBA First Team and three consecutive All-Defensive First Team nods merely “good,” and not worthy of superstar status.

Indeed, that would be a position worth slamming … if it was one Penny actually took. The thing is, he didn’t.

Here’s the audio of the segment in question, from Hardaway’s Aug. 5 appearance on The Bottomline Sports Show:

Those comments:

I’m not going to discount — I love Kawhi. I’m trying to say, “Superstar?” “Superstar.” You know what? I could give Kawhi “superstar.” Because he’s just not a guy that likes commercials, he’s not a guy that wants to be the face of the league. He just wants to get his work done. He doesn’t want to talk, so that part goes along with being a superstar, though. But, I would give him — he would be a superstar to me, for sure, because he handles his own with anybody in the league.

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After things started to percolate on Monday, Hardaway offered a clarification in a since-deleted Instagram post:

Penny Hardaway’s since-deleted Instagram post. (Screen&nbsp;shot via San Antonio Express-News)
Penny Hardaway’s since-deleted Instagram post. (Screen shot via San Antonio Express-News)

“Calm down people,” Hardaway wrote, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “I never said that Kawhi wasn’t a super star. I know that he is a super star. I only stated that he doesn’t like the media and endorsement side of being a super star. Best 2 way player in the league.”

So upon further review, not only did Hardaway not slag Leonard off; in fact, he called him a superstar capable of going toe-to-toe with any player in the world, and landed on the same side of the issue as Michael Jordan. Cool!

The lesson: if you’re going to attribute quotes delivered during a radio interview, it’s probably a good idea to have actually listened to the radio interview to make sure the dude didn’t say the exact opposite of the thing you’re saying he said. Let’s add that one to the best practices document, shall we?

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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