By this time, the 6-foot-8 power forward, who given fans at each stop a highlight shows, had retired from professional basketball in 1990. He returned to the Utah area. There, he worked for trucking companies, serving as drivers and later trainers.
In 1997, Hardy founded the MARCO INC., a trucking company that he eventually expanded to five trucks and five trailers. McLamb became his wife and business partner. Catherine said he logged 170,000 miles per year.
“He drove his own trucks and trailers from coast to coast. He loved the freedom that his job gave him, traveling the United States in his mobile office with the best views of God’s creations.
“He still had big dreams of taking the company to a higher level, a vision of creating opportunities for others who also shared his passion for driving big rigs,’’ she continued. “He began purchasing and leasing semi-trucks and trailers to other drivers who needed assistance with getting started in their own business.’’
Hardy was born to Emma Ruth and James Hardy on Dec. 1, 1956, in Knoxville, Ala. Unfortunately, two years later, Emma passed. By age 11, James Percivell Hardy and his father had moved to the Long Beach area. Later, he attended Franklin Jr. High on the Eastside.
Instead of attending Poly High, and being a part of the Jackrabbits’ sports dynasty, he enrolled at Jordan High. What changed? During this time, his father had fallen in love.
He married Willie Maybell. They had children together, and Maybell loved James Percivell like she had given birth to him. Hardy loved his mother dearly, too.
In fact, he was generous. He helped family members as much as he could. Driving big rigs gave him the freedom to see the country and relatives. “He lived his life around the world,’’ McLamb said. “He lived life his way. ”
James Precivell Hardy was preceded in death by his birth mother Emma Ruth Hardy, father James Hardy, brother Freddie Hardy, and brother-in-law, Tiran Walker Sr. In addition to Catherine and stepmother Willie Mae Maybell, Hardy is survived by his children: Jennifer Paula Hardy, James Michael Hardy and Emma Claire Hardy, Sharrod, Dontae, Shanecca, Mario, Tanisha, Danish, Yohance; mother Willie Maybell (Union Springs, Ala.); siblings Joyce Addison (Union Springs Ala.); James Lester Hardy (Washington State): Johnette Smith (Titus) Modesto, Calif.; Jacqueline Walker (Modesto, Calif.), and a host of family and friends.
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ALL THAT JAZZ: Hardy played with New Orleans, which moved to Utah, for four seasons before embarking on a success full career overseas.
HARDY EARNED 1975 PARADE ALL-AMERICAN FIRST-TEAM HONORS
HIGH RISER: Hardy once high jumped 6 feet, 7 inches during his first time competing in the event. His mark was good enough to finish second behind his teammate David Oliver, who recorded the same marks, but won the Moore League title because he made less attempts.
BLUE PRIDE: Hardy competed with NCAA DIV. I caliber athletes in 1973, 1974 and 1975. He led the Panthers against St. Anthonys (left) and Millikan (right), the latter a Moore League rival. Larry Hudson, a 6-foot-6 prolific scorer, who competed on the 1973 and 1974 team, went on to compete at Long Beach State. David Oliver, a shooting guard, competed at Loyola Chicago. Both starred on the 1973 and 1974 teams.
DANDY DONS: The legendary Long Beach Jordan Panther and 1975 Parade All-American finished his career as the 10th leading scorer and 7th leading rebounder in the school's storied history. The New Orleans Jazz selected him 11th overall in the 1978 NBA Draft Lottery.
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The things he did on the hardwood are legendary.
In the early to mid-1970s, he was truly a star-child. His heroics on the hardwood at Jordan High had UNLV’s Jerry Tarkanian and Long Beach State Lute Olson, both Hall-of-Fame coaches, in hot pursuit of his services. However, USF coach Bob Gaillard landed the 1975 First-team Parade All-American who stood 6-foot-8 with a huge wingspan. There, he teamed with Bill Cartwright and Winford Boynes, also Parade All-Americans, to form one of the greatest teams in USF’s history, a squad Sports Illustrated dubbed “The Dandy Dons.’’
Gaillard said: “James Hardy was the most talented athletic high school player in the nation. He was simple poetry in motion and an invaluable asset to what became the number No. 1 team in college basketball. Apart from his athletic prowess, James was an exceptionally intelligent and insightful young man.”
Cartwright, who went on to win championships with the Chicago Bulls, said: “We won a lot of games together and climbed to No. 1 in the nation but everyone would always remember that one spectacular play James made every game that you might not see again.
“We all wished we were as gifted as he was,” Cartwright continued in an interview with a USF sports reporter in 2017. In 1977, James Percivell Hardy helped lead the Dons to 29 consecutive victories, a WCAC Championship, and a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll before Notre Dame upset them, 93-82, on the final game of the regular season. UFS fell, 121-95, to UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Division I playoffs. The team finished 29-2.
James Percivell Hardy averaged 14.4 ppg. and 10.9 rpg. during the incredible run.
The next season, he tallied 15.7 ppg. and 8.9 rpg. to lead the Dons (12-2,23-6) to the WCAC title, and to a, 68-64, victory against North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, Cal State Fullerton defeated the Dons, 75-72, in the second round.
James Percivell Hardy finished his career with the Dons as the 10th all-time leading scorer (1,075 points), and seventh leading rebounder (772) in school’s history. He recorded 99 blocks.
The junior power forward entered the 1978 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Jazz (now Utah) made him a lottery pick by selecting him 11th overall in the first round. He played four seasons with them before embarking on a successful career overseas. Unfortunately his game wasn’t a fit in former Jazz coach, Elgin Baylor’s system, said David Oliver, a close family friend, and high school teammate. Hardy was a hybrid player who could handle the ball like a guard and was a deadly outside shooter. His game suffered playing with his back to the basket. He only averaged 5.7 ppg., 0.9 bpg., and 5.3 rpg. He played with the Jazz four years before embarking on a long career playing overseas, competing with seven professional sports teams.
Years later, James Percivell Hardy returned to Jordan and spoke to athletes about his glory days on the court.
“James Hardy was essentially the purest basketball talent to ever emerge out of the Moore League and city of Long Beach,’’ said Gerald Harris, a former Panther great who played at Eastern Washington. “His battles with David Greenwood were of epic proportions, to say the least. He literally extended the ball well over the square on the backboard. I’ve seen him do it on many occasions.
“He was the quintessential ‘man among boys’ of his era,” Harris continued. “His physical attributes have been virtually unseen or matched by anyone since he left the courts of Long Beach.’’
In 1974, during the non-league competition, Jordan High rolled to a 13-0 overall record and had received a No. 2 ranking in the CIF Southern Section Poll and No. 5 ranking nationally, Oliver said. Verbum Dei, a perennial national powerhouse and ranked No. 1 in CIF-SS, underestimated the Panthers during their game at the West Covina holiday tournament. That team featured Greenwood and Roy Hamilton, both Parade All-Americans and UCLA signees.
Jordan possessed a plethora of NCAA Div. I-caliber talent, including Hardy who high jumped 6 feet, 7 inches the first time he ever competed in track and field, and finished second behind Oliver (same mark with fewer attempts) at the Moore League championship.
After Jordan won, people had high expectations for the Panthers. Larry Hudson, a 6-foot-6 small forward and prolific scorer, tallied 44 points against the Eagles while Hardy outplayed Greenwood, players said.
Many thought they would eventually meet in the CIF Div. I Finals. Verbum Dei wanted revenge.
However, intra-squad strife derailed the season. The Panthers went 6-4 during league play and finished 19-10 overall. Hudson, who signed at Long Beach State, said he would have gladly let Hardy or other teammates be first options.
“James was the best basketball player to ever come out of Long Beach,’’ said Hudson, a Prep 10 Top 100 All-American who once saw Hardy touch his index finger above the clock inside the looker room at Millikan High.
“James could do whatever he wanted to do on the floor,’’ Oliver said. “He could score at will, rebound at will, block shots at will. He was just a gifted guy. He was before his time. He could handle the rock like a guard. He was Kevin Durant before Kevin Durant.”
Mark Tennis, the editor of Cal High Sports, said Hardy was a part of the 1975 class that is considered the best ever in the history of CIF. Hardy, Greenwood, Hamilton, Bill Laimbeer (Palo Verdes Estate, Notre Dame), Brad Holland (Crescenta Valley, UCLA) and Cartwright (Elk Grove), were all Parade All-Americans. They completed on the first Cal All-Stars vs. the world all-star team.
Paul Moseki, a 7-2 center (Crespi Carmelite High, Kansas), was also a part of that exceptional class and all-star team.
“James could have averaged 50 points and 10 rebounds. He had that skill set,’’ Hudson said. “He was a phenomenal talent, man!’’