Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Recap
Pippen, The Mailman and The Dream Team get their HOF rings.
by Ben Collins
They’re running a little slideshow here, at the NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony at a ballroom in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, where they’ll be handing out Hall of Fame rings to all of the inductees.
There’s ol’ Marv Harshman up there, his black & white headshot shining above — a beacon of hoops ingenuity, probably. Oh, and Bertha Teague! Who could forget Bertha Teague, what with her pointy, heart-shaped glasses and, it appears, hairnet-adorned coiff?
Who, oh who, could forget Bertha Teague?
Well, unless she was my lunchlady — and all indications, of course, point in this direction right now — the answer is me. And everyone. Everyone has forgotten Bertha Teague.
But she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. So was Marv Harshman. And Lauren Gale was a man. Did you know that? He was a dude and, also, a Hall of Famer.
All of these names so distant you don’t believe they exist outside of these black and white photos? They have a jersey and a plaque in a fake locker a few miles away from here.
So you wonder, as Scottie Pippen slinks across this ballroom in a suit, if some person in 30 years will be at this banquet saying, “Scottie Pippen? Who the hell is Scottie Pippen?” As people scarf down hors d’oeuvres on tables that have basketball silhouettes adorning all of the flower bouquets, will our future-selves be making fun of Scottie Pippen the way I’m making fun of Lauren Gale?
Well, the short answer is no. And Karl Malone will tell you why:
“This is one of the best collections of talent I’ve seen in one room,” he said. “I’m just in awe.”
And he’s right. The long answer is the rest of this story.
There’s a man here, when I arrive, who is starting to get pretty frustrated with Dolph Schayes.
“Listen, Dolph, I hear you,” he says. “But somebody has already accounted for those seats.”
So this media guy for the Hall of Fame is very politely trying to get Dolph to figure out who these extra people are, while Dolph is edging for a seat for a family member.
Dolph can’t go anywhere until he grabs his pass. He can’t go downstairs to the massive reception area outside of the ballroom where the eight-foot-tall ice luge martini dispenser is, or where there’s an hors d’oeuvres table with mounds of raw oysters and sushi, or where there’s John Stockton trying to talk over some live smooth jazz. He’s hanging out up here until they figure out who is playing Impostor Dolph Schayes.
All is worked out, of course. He’s Dolph freaking Schayes, anyway. They can find a couple of extra seats for one of the best centers ever, so they do.
But I bring this up for a reason: This kindly event organizer has given out so many black-and-orange lanyards to Hall of Famers already tonight — not just Pippen, Malone and the Dream Team, but the 1960s US Men’s team (The Big O included), Cynthia Cooper, Jerry Buss, coaches (like Jerry Sloan and Hubie Brown), and any past inductees that are in town (Nancy Lieberman, for one) — that he was starting get lax with the language around them.
“Listen, Mr. Laettner, can you go grab me a bologna and cheese downstairs? It’s starting to get late up here and I need-a-the-sustenance, if you know what I’m saying.” said the next staffer at the table. Except he didn’t.
In fact, it probably took great courage not to say stuff like that all night long. You could fill out a winning NBA Jam team with people just waiting in the line for a vodka-tonic from the ice sculpture.
So Dolph and all of us descended into that reception area and then into the ballroom, where we took our seats next to all of the new inductees, and we all ate big steaks and big fish, because everything tonight was to scale.
I’m seated next to Isaiah (not that Isiah, thank God), who works at Mohegan and has finagled his way into some tickets with some friends tonight. He grew up reading SLAM, remembers bylines, remembers all of the pictures. He doesn’t read it so much anymore — he has a five-year-old, who does five-year-old things, like not reading magazines — but he wants me to know that it had a profound impact on how he watched hoops.
The host asks all of these players up to the podium so they can receive their rings. The speeches tonight are brief. They’re little playful jabs from one Olympic team to the other, or mumbled compliments to the Hall of Fame committee and staff. We’re not getting the awesome waterworks from the normally-stolid Karl Malone that we got last night. Scottie Pippen isn’t showing off his cute kids in tuxedos.
But as these Hall of Famers are receiving their rings, they’re showing this second slideshow — not of Hall of Famers from the past, but of the inductees — and I’m recognizing these pictures. It’s Malone grazing the rim with a dunk in his mountain-white Jazz home unis. And Pippen dunking on Patrick Ewing.
Want to know why? It’s because of Youtube and ESPN and SLAM and the way the NBA is now. Isaiah and I couldn’t forget Scottie Pippen or The Dream Team or Karl Malone if we tried.
And, after seeing all of these pictures this weekend, doing some research on Youtube and remembering how pretty the games of some of these inductees were, the kind of human beings these players were (the emcee tonight called David Robinson “a wonderful embassador to mankind”), or the kind of innovators these players were — why would we ever want to forget?