tim_hardaway.jpgMIAMI (AP) _ No opponent did more to thwart point guard Tim Hardaway's plans to help the Miami Heat raise a championship banner than the New York Knicks.

Ironic, then, that when Miami opens the season Wednesday against New York, Hardaway will finally see a new banner sway.

The Heat will retire Hardaway's No. 10 jersey in a pregame ceremony, making him just the second player to receive that honor from the franchise. Alonzo Mourning's No. 33 was hoisted last season by Miami, which also has paid tributes to the No. 23 Michael Jordan jersey and the No. 13 worn by Dan Marino.

“It's going to be great,'' Hardaway said. “Words can't describe how I feel. Two weeks ago, I wasn't even thinking about it. But this week, I've been thinking about it every day, every night, like it's opening night and I'm going to be playing basketball. I'm nervous, but I know it's going to be a great night.''

It'll be the second banner for Hardaway, a five-time All-Star: One in celebration of his Olympic gold medal during his tenure with Miami already hangs from the arena rafters, next to ones for Mourning and Dwyane Wade.

Hardaway spent only six seasons with the Heat, but left a lasting legacy. He's still the franchise's career leader in 3-point field goals and assists (although Wade will likely pass him in that department by the midpoint this season), ranks fifth in points and steals, and is 10th in regular-season games played.

But his time in Miami might also be remembered for three straight playoff exits against the Knicks from 1998 through 2000, twice in the first round, once in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and with each of those series going to the ultimate game _ which the Heat lost at home every time.

“Alonzo and Tim were sort of at the center of it all here, two of the cornerstone pieces,'' Heat president Pat Riley said.

Hardaway said the conversation with Riley about the jersey retirement was one to remember. He said Riley told him the ceremony was coming, and that it would be opening night.

“Cool, cool, that's great,'' Hardaway recalled saying.

And then Riley dropped the nugget: It would happen against the Knicks, Miami's archrival during Hardaway's era.

“I just started laughing,'' Hardaway said. “It's against an organization that we had more battles, good battles and bad battles, against than anyone else. So it makes sense.''

Life after basketball has been filled, at times, with tumult for Hardaway.

It's been nearly three years since he uttered the now-infamous anti-gay remark on a radio show, a mistake that got him banished from the NBA's All-Star weekend and shunned by many of his longtime friends. He apologized and has spent plenty of time since working with gay rights and children's advocacy groups, trying to make amends.

Some of his business dealings have also gone sour, and he spends his time now seeking a job, although he insists he's happy and that life is good. His 17-year-old son, Tim Hardaway Jr., has decided to play college basketball at Michigan _ picking the Wolverines from a huge list of Division I suitors.

So even though Wednesday is a celebration of his past, Hardaway says he's looking ahead.

“It's a great tribute,'' said Hardaway, who'll have 50 guests with him Wednesday. “Everybody that needs to be up there eventually will be recognized.''

Pictured above is Tim Hardaway.