Former Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat player Tim Hardaway is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame for the fifth time, and he thinks he knows why he’s yet to be enshrined. He gave a wide-ranging interview with HoopsHype recently, and when he was asked how he feels about his fifth go-round as a possible Hall of Fame inductee, he gave an honest, vanity-free answer.
“Well, you know, the reason I’m not in is because of what I said in 2007 about gay people. 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.”
Hardaway is talking about his infamous February 2007 interview on “The Dan Le Batard Show.” Former NBA player John Amaechi had recently come out as gay, and when Le Batard asked Hardaway how he would deal with a gay teammate, he said he wouldn’t want that person on his team. Later in the interview, he said this:
"Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. 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. So yeah, I don't like it.”
His comments caused an uproar, leading to the NBA to remove him as a representative at the All-Star Game. And while he apologized, it was never quite a real apology. The day after he made his comments, he told a local news station that he never should have said he hated gay people, but said to a different news station that he “can't stand being around [a] person knowing that they sleep with somebody of the same sex" because he doesn’t condone it.
To his credit, Hardaway has done the work to change since then. In the months after the Le Batard interview, he began educating himself about the LGBT community, attending classes and working with local advocacy groups. He declined interviews at the time because he didn’t want anyone to think he was doing those things only to fix his image. In the years since, his opinion has completely changed.
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. 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. 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.” Life is too short to be out here hating one another and trying to hurt one another.
Hardaway has seemingly made some kind of peace with what’s happened since he made those comments. He told HoopsHype that while it hurts, he understands why he’s not in the Hall of Fame because he understands the ramifications of what he said. He hurt people, but he’s tried to make it right.
All I can do is keep living. My parents also always told me, “You can’t control what you can’t control.”
More from Yahoo Sports: