by Brian Boyles
“This could be a lot bigger event,” said a guy behind me in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom.
He had a point: the announcement ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame could afford a little bombast, something more than a dais flanked by two 60” flat screens. But if you grew up watching the NBA in the 1990s, this afternoon in New Orleans felt like a flip through your old basketball card collection. Hey, there’s Karl Malone. Is that Hakeem? Gary Payton shows up late?
The ceremony began with introductions of the Mailman, the Glove, George Gervin, New Orleans resident Bob Pettit, Calvin Murphy and Rick Barry, all past inductees who nodded from the stage (well, GP was late). New commissioner Adam Silver was recognized in the seats below. After a “three minute infomercial” plugging the Hall’s fantasy camp, golf tournament, and the August induction day, the direct-elect members were announced: Bob Leonard (voted in from the ABA Committee), Nat Clifton (Early African American Pioneers Committee), Sarunas Marciulionis (International Committee), and Guy Rodgers from the Veterans Committee. Finally, David Stern got fast tracked, with USA Basketball honcho Jerry Colangelo giving brief remarks on Stern’s legacy and the league-wide support for Silver. Just my first sighting of the torch passing that will likely reappear throughout the weekend.
MSG’s John Andariese and Phoenix columnist and former Pro Basketball Sports Writers president Joe Gilmartin were this year’s Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients, and the women’s committee finalists are Wayland Baptist coach Harley Redin and the Immaculata University women’s team of the early 1970’s. I noticed NBA Retired Players Association CEO and former New Orleans City Councilman Arnie Fielkow in the row in front of me. If you have a minute, google Fielkow and Pelicans’ owner Tom Benson. Interesting, huh?
The 10 finalists for the 2014 HOF election: ABA legend Spencer Haywood; Suns point guard (and Sacramento mayor) Kevin Johnson; two thirds of Golden State’s RUN TMC break, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond; and center Alonzo Mourning, who came to the stage in a wool pinstripe suit to admit that, with this announcement, “basketball really is over with,” which got a laugh.
“Timmy and I are brothers, we kind of grew up at the hip, and we came to Miami back in ‘95,” said Mourning. Yep, I thought, I remember watching y’all in the dorms at Tulane. “Pat Riley was brought in by Micky Arison, who remains the owner and who’s dedicated to bringing a championship to Miami. We helped start that process.” After consecutive Lebron-led titles, it’s always interesting the think back at Heat history. With the nominations of Hardaway and Zo, today marked the first time (ok, GP, but that goes to Seattle) that the franchise’s legacy reached the Hall. We’ll certainly be back for more in the next 10-15 years.
Rounding out the ballot: former coaches Nolan Richardson, who took Arkansas to three Final Fours in the 90s; Eddie Sutton, a four-time coach of the year at Oklahoma State; and Gary Williams, who led Maryland to the tourney 11 consecutive times from 1994-2004, including the Juan Dixon/Steve Blake championship squad of 2002.
The afternoon ended with Hakeem Olajuwon and Artis Gilmore joining Hardaway, Malone, Mourning, Richmond, Barry, Payton, Petit, Williams and Murphy for an onstage huddle. More of these mind-boggling assemblies to come, I’m sure. Long live the 90s.