Talking With a Hall of Fame Trio
Teresa Edwards, Satch Sanders and Artis Gilmore discuss their Hall of Fame careers.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
It’s a special experience to see a group of newly-inducted Hall of Famers celebrate their newfound standing in their sport. The Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is certainly an emotional night for them. But the revelry following that night is similarly memorable; SLAMonline was afforded the opportunity to cover some of that last Saturday night at the Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Celebration & Ring Ceremony inside the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.
The event was held inside an impressively-decorated ballroom befitting the unique experience that a gathering of Hall of Famers creates. Past inductees, including Julius Erving and George Gervin, helped celebrate the moment, as did guests of the 10-person 2011 class.
Chris Mullin had former teammates Mark Jackson, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway in town to celebrate. Dennis Rodman had an entourage too big to be believed, including Hollywood director Penny Marshall, who was directing a documentary on Rodman’s Hall of Fame experience. While Mullin and Rodman declined interviews with SLAMonline (there was not an official media interview session), three other inductees gave quick interviews following the ceremony—Teresa Edwards, Tom ‘Satch’ Sanders and Artis Gilmore.
Here’s a good trivia question for you: Who has the most Olympic medals in USA Basketball history? That would be Edwards, whose bronze medal in the 1992 Games is sandwiched between the golds she won in ’84, ’88, ’96 and 2000. She also won gold at the 1987 Pan American Games and 1990 FIBA World Championship as well as a bronze at the 1991 Pan American Games. The record of the U.S.A. teams on which Edwards played was 205-14. Her impact on those squads was reflected by the fact that she was named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year in 1987, ’90, ’96 and 2000.
A two-time All-American at the University of Georgia, Edwards led the Lady Bulldogs to three SEC Championships and a pair of Final Fours from 1983-86. A lack of professional U.S. basketball leagues led her to play most of her career internationally, although she returned to the States in 1996 to play in the now-defunct American Basketball League, where she was a two-time All-Star in 1997 and ’98. She capped her career in 2003-04 by playing in the WNBA.
SLAM: What do you feel like your impact has been on the growth of women’s basketball in the U.S.?
Teresa Edwards: Well, unbeknownst to me, my love for the game has been something that a lot of players have picked up on. My passion to play the game at a certain level is something I’ve learned that a lot of players truly picked up on, as well. I’ve done what other players have done for me; I’ve passed a legacy of women’s basketball to a few other players. It feels good.
SLAM: When you played in the ’80s, you were restricted mostly to playing overseas because of there not being a pro league in this country. That was your prime. Do you feel like fans missed out on that since they couldn’t watch you very often?
TE: No, I think there is a season for everything. I learned to accept that quite early in my life, that there is a season for everything. I’m more a pioneer to be relished in the moments like this. I actually feel more accomplished because women have been fighting for something like this, so I think that’s more rewarding.
SLAM: I’m sure it’s tough to say which of your Olympic experiences is most special, was the ’96 team more memorable than the other squads?
TE: I think it was more special. It was in a sense that it transcended things for us here – women’s professional basketball and where we are today. It showed us that it’s something we have to work hard to continue. Before ’96, I was one of those kids playing overseas wishing I could play at home. And because of that team and what we did, we had a following.
SLAM: Did you have a favorite place to play professionally?
TE: [Smiles] Oh God, there’s no favorite place. I’ve played in so many [countries]. I enjoyed my professional career the most, though, in Japan. I played four years over there. I thought it was a tremendous experience and a great professional environment.
SLAM: What else about Japan made it particularly memorable for you?
TE: Well, I grew to accept the culture. I felt it was unique. It took me awhile to get used to it, but the most important thing I’ve learned in my career is you never take America and try to put it in somebody else’s home. You try to enjoy the experience where you are, and that’s what I did.
SLAM: Did you lean more toward the men’s game for inspiration when you were growing up, since women’s basketball wasn’t prominent in the U.S. back then?
TE: Of course. I mean, since I saw Dr. J for the first time in my life, he was the figure for me to model my game after. I did. I watched him closely, and I was such a young kid. So, no, we didn’t have many female role models play on television. And the men’s game was the biggest thing in our eyes. I definitely got myself into that.
SLAM: Now that you’re a Hall of Famer, are you gonna visit Springfield every year?
TE: Are you kidding me? Every year, man. I’m in the biggest club in the world. [Laughs]
SLAM: Is there anything in particular you learned about the Hall of Fame during this process that you didn’t know about?
TE: I learned that there is a distinctive of professionalism and athleticism and level of display with basketball, a group that I belong to and that I share common traits with. It’s a beautiful feeling.