Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tim Hardaway's Inspiring Rise Leaves Lasting Mark

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tim Hardaway's Inspiring Rise Leaves Lasting Mark

Article excerpt

This is where it all began, with the strong, little lady sitting on the couch. Before Tim Hardaway became the Miami Heat's best player, before Wednesday's announcement that he and Michael Jordan were basketball's finest at their position, he was living here, with his mother and grandmother and great-grandmother in this little brick house. The folks on Oglesby Street didn't need an alarm clock back then. Every morning, tiny Timmy would wake the neighbors, bouncing that ball on his way to the bus stop.

"This is my favorite," Hardaway's mother Gwendolyn is saying in the living room. "All the way back here."

And now she is walking on the wooden floor in her socks, past the Heat program on the coffee table and the picture of her son in his All-Star uniform. You can see the son growing up right before the mother's eyes - the pictures of Tim at Carver High, the pictures of Tim at the University of Texas El Paso, the pictures of Tim's young children - and now you've arrived at Gwendolyn's treasure. "My favorite," she says again. It is hanging on the wall at the center of the house, back by her bedroom, above the toy basket for the grandkids. The photo is framed in gold, and shows Gwendolyn's shirtless son, all grown, holding a basketball with both arms. Tim Hardaway's story is sad and sweet and symbolic - the way his alcoholic father beat his mother; the way Tim rose above the South Side's scarred streets without forgetting them; the way kids down the block, on an asphalt court with no nets, dribble between their legs, hoping to one day be him - but this is where you must begin. In this neighborhood. In this house. In this photo. With Tim Hardaway embracing basketball. Curtis Murphy, Carver's assistant principal, is sitting behind the desk in his office, talking about his school's favorite son. This place has hardened just a little since Hardaway left - every kid must pass through a metal detector now, two armed policemen patrol the halls - but Hardaway's picture and college jersey remain safe in a locked glass case downstairs. He is something sacred. "He's in our Hall of Fame," Murphy says. "Only five members. Tim doesn't have a plaque yet. I think he's finally earned one, huh?" Hardaway runs summer basketball camps here. He funds five scholarships, has done so since he reached the NBA in 1989. Murphy is about to take you on a tour, but he is interrupted by the scratching of his walkie-talkie. A teacher is bringing a misbehaving student. "You got into a big fight on my property, Kenneth," Murphy says when the boy arrives. "No, I didn't," Kenneth says. "You threw a chair through a window!" Murphy replies. "I've got witnesses. You are looking at five days suspension. What's your home phone number?" "My family doesn't have a phone," Kenneth replies. A female student is sitting outside, waiting for Murphy as he leaves his office. He asks her to walk with him, asks her to follow him to the shiny glass case. "James is getting in my face and calling me names again," she complains. "Ignore words - rise above them," Murphy says. "I talked to his mother this morning. You come get me if he so much as touches you." "I'm going to kill him," the girl replies. "I don't want you in jail," Murphy says. "My brother is in jail," she says. Murphy is at the glass case now, eager to talk about Hardaway, when a teacher interrupts him. "Have you alerted security or crowd control for tomorrow's assembly?" she says. Murphy runs a hand across his weary face. Across the hall, above the attendance office, is a hand-written poem on a poster. When things go wrong, as they sometimes will. When the road you're climbing seems all uphill. When the funds are low and the debts are high. And you can't smile but you have to cry. When care is pressing you down a bit. Rest if you must - but don't you quit. Murphy plows on with his tour - shows you the jersey and the trophies and the yearbook photo - but it's a little beside the point. …

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