They are famous sons with different fathers, but they seem more like twins: similar builds, similar skills and similar backstories. Tim Hardaway Jr., a 6'6" junior guard, and Glenn Robinson III, a 6'6" freshman forward, are starters for fifth-ranked Michigan and sons of former NBA stars. For their whole lives, strangers have viewed them through the prism of their fathers' careers. It is the storyline they can't escape, and one that only a few people can really appreciate. When Robinson took a recruiting visit to Michigan two seasons ago, Hardaway was his host, and Robinson knew what he wanted to discuss. "I remember asking questions, mostly about our dads' situation, not about the school."
WHEN PEOPLE ask Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson about the best players he ever faced, he gives two names. One, of course, is Michael Jordan, in the NBA. The other is Tim Hardaway, in summer pickup games in Chicago in the early 1990s.
Robinson was an All-America at Purdue, a muscular 6'8" forward who could score from anywhere on the court. As a junior in 1993--94 he led the country with 30.3 points per game. As an NBA rookie the next season he averaged 21.9. He admits he "wasn't the best defender ... wasn't the best student of the game," but at the time, who cared? "I was just good," Robinson says. "I'm not being cocky. I scored so well that my scoring covered up a lot of my weaknesses. And I was so athletic that my athleticism covered up for my weakness on defense."
Robinson grew up in Gary, Ind., and during his college summers he traveled the 30 miles to Chicago to find better competition. He found Hardaway in gyms on the South Side. Hardaway, who had played at UTEP from 1985--86 through '88--89, was then a star for the Warriors with a crossover dribble that was so lethal, it had a nickname: the UTEP Two-Step. But that wasn't all that made him great. It was his one speed: all out.
"Every time I played," Hardaway says, "I brought it." In summer games he surveyed matchups and picked his team carefully, determined to whip everybody. If his team lost, Hardaway would stew until he got back on the court. At night he couldn't sleep.
The Big Dog was out. He was in Milwaukee with the Bucks, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 1994, or on the road in Sacramento or Boston or Phoenix or Seattle—anywhere but in northwest Indiana, where his son Glenn III wanted him to be.
Glenn III was not angry. He understood: His mother, Shantelle, and his father had split up when he was a baby, around the time his younger brother Gelen (pronounced JEE-len) was born, and his father lived in another city and played basketball. His dad called. He visited. He cared. So, no, what Glenn III felt was not anger. It was longing.
He wanted his father there ... but his father was there, on TV, rising for jumpers and driving the lane. The little boy watched Bucks games whenever he could. Afterward he went outside—just him, the basket and the ball—and played imaginary NBA games. Sometimes he pretended he was Daddy. Sometimes he pretended to play against Daddy. And sometimes he pretended he was Daddy's teammate, and he practiced hitting game-winning shots and celebrating with his father.
Tim Hardaway Sr. had everything he could want: a 13-year NBA career, a successful marriage, three wonderful kids and a house in Miami, where the Hardaways had settled after he joined the Heat in 1995. As an eighth-grader his son, Tim Jr., loved basketball, but he also loved pool parties and playing video games and hanging out with his friends. On the basketball court Tim Jr. was happy. In the stands Tim Sr. was not.