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Penny Hardaway announces the return of Lil’ Penny

Hardaway told ESPN’s Get Up! that the beloved character from Nike’s 1990s ad campaigns is making a comeback

Anfernee Hardaway Getty Images

Lil’ Penny is making a comeback.

At least that’s what former Orlando Magic point guard Penny Hardaway told ESPN’s Get Up! during his appearance on the show Wednesday morning...

“You know, Lil’ Penny is actually going to be coming back out soon,” Hardaway told ESPN. “He’s working out, trying to get in shape. He’s coming out to support the Tigers.”

For Magic fans from the mid-1990s, this is major breaking news, especially if it means new commercials to add to the collection.

Hardaway, now the coach of the Memphis Tigers, in his prime was one of the NBA’s biggest superstars and considered the heir apparent to Michael Jordan. At the height of Penny’s popularity in 1995, Nike released an ad campaign for Hardaway’s Air Penny sneakers that starred Lil’ Penny, an outspoken, alter ego puppet voiced by none other than Chris Rock.

It resulted in a series of iconic commercials, one of which aired during the 1997 Super Bowl and another that was recently ranked the ninth best basketball sneaker commercial of all time by SLAM Magazine (should have been top-three)...

Lil’ Penny, before Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, also starred in what I believe is the greatest NBA on NBC pregame intro of all time...

After injuries derailed what would have been a Hall of Fame career for Hardaway, Lil’ Penny was rarely heard from again (though he did make recent cameos when Hardaway was inducted into the Magic’s Hall of Fame and at the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery as the Magic’s good luck charm).

Now that Hardaway is back in the spotlight as Tigers coach, and many of his highly-popular signature sneakers have been re-released by Nike, Penny is visible and relevant once again.

So, it seems the perfect time for the return of Lil’ Penny. Hopefully it really is happening.