The Basketball Hall of Fame strives to honor the legacy of posthumous inductees
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Nine members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022 took part in a press conference Friday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, marking the start of the consecration weekend.
Seven others could not make it. Their Hall of Fame honor comes posthumously.
That includes Hugh Evans, the longtime NBA game official and the first black umpire among Hall’s 17 (just seven who worked primarily in the NBA). The ailing Evans was joined by fellow referee Bob Delaney at the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in New Orleans last spring to hear his acceptance into the announced hall.
This was to serve as a high point, however, as Evans passed away in July.
“It’s one of the things over the years that’s kind of heartbreaking,” Naismith president Jerry Colangelo said, “when some of the people who get inducted are weak or can barely get on stage. And some don’t make it.
“Hugh Evans, we saw him in New Orleans and that was it. We found out later that he was gone.
Among the inductees this weekend, with the official ceremony Saturday night at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, longtime coach, instructor and author Del Harris will enter the Contributor category. Harris, 85, took the stage a little shaky on Friday afternoon, fresh from back surgery a few days earlier.
Coach George Karl, sixth on the all-time winning list (1,175), also did so this year. Karl, 71, is a cancer survivor who was first eligible in 2013.
At the consecration of the Class of 2021 a year ago, legendary Boston Celtics great Bill Russell was inducted as a coach 46 years after entering the Hall as a player. Russell, 87 at the time, was in decline and suspicious of the novel coronavirus, pre-recording his acceptance speech on video. But he still traveled across the country to attend the event.
Said Colangelo: “Recovering him last year was a big challenge because of his health and the distance he had to travel. We were so happy that he could get there and experience what he did.
The seven new members who will not be present this weekend are: Evans; The early committee selections of African-American pioneers Wyatt (Sonny) Boswell, Inman Jackson, and Albert (Runt) Pullins; six-time NBA star Lou Hudson; former Milwaukee coach Larry Costello as a contributor; and international winner Radivoj Korac, a Yugoslav star.
Korac died in 1969. Boswell, Jackson and Pullins, the original members of the Harlem Globetrotters, died in 1964, 1973 and 1985 respectively. Costello died in 2001 and Hudson in 2014.
It’s a challenge for the Hall, Colangelo acknowledged. Making candidates wait until the votes go their way risks honoring them too late. NBA star Tim Hardaway, for example, played his last game in May 2003 but was finally elected this year.
However, going back to clean up omissions and expand the context of the room invariably means that some new members will not have survived to enshrinement.
Consider the 1972 USA men’s basketball team, now in its 50e year since the controversial end of the gold medal match in Munich has arguably turned them into the second most famous Olympic hoops team, behind only the 1992 Dream Team.
This group was among the nominees this year as a team but did not get the necessary votes. In recent years, players Jim Forbes and Dwight Jones and assistant coach Johnny Bach have all passed away. The room feels as out of reach for now as the golds they’ve been denied
“We want [members] to enjoy the moment,” Colangelo said. “That’s it, that’s the pinnacle.
Colangelo added: “Here is the problem: we cannot play God. We don’t know when any of them won’t be here. So you’re really talking about speculating how long someone is going to be there. It’s difficult.
“It’s something we talk about all the time. We want to do a better job whenever we can to make sure that happens as soon as possible. »
News and notes
Those who participated on Friday enjoyed their moment, including:
• Karl was an NBA Hall draft coach coaching six franchises, with more success in Seattle, Milwaukee and Denver. But he played more than four seasons for San Antonio, including three while the Spurs were in the ABA. He remains faithful to this upstart league which merged with the NBA before the 1976-77 season.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think the ABA gets enough credit for their league greatness,” Karl said. “The first year of the merger, I think 10 of the 24 All-Stars were ABA players.”
Karl was in high school near Pittsburgh when the ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers, led by the great Connie Hawkins, won the league championship. As a rookie, he became such good friends with roommate Coby Dietrick that he named his son after him.
The longtime coach is also proud of the many ABA ideas the NBA has embraced, from cheerleading and an All-Star Game dunk contest to, of course, the 3-point shot. He is particularly pleased with the agreement between the NBA and the players’ union to pay pensions to some of the surviving ABA players.
“I’m an ABA guy,” Karl said.
• Hardaway has multiple claims to fame, from his five All-NBA selections and his namesake son playing for Dallas to teaming with Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond as Golden State’s “Run TMC” in the 1990s. But he is a legend of the playing field for his famous killer cross move, freezing or overpowering his opponents as he rushes.
Asked on Friday which current NBA player could be the best with this move, the former point guard said: “No one has the Tim Hardaway crossover. But I’ll tell you this, there are a lot of guys out there who can handle the basketball. Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry of course, Damian Lillard and you still have the old guy: Chris Paul.
“There are a lot of guys out there who, if you’re not ready, can break your ankles.”
• Harris, whose 556 wins in 14 seasons as head coach only scratched the surface of his contributions as an assistant, manager and teacher of the sport, made an important distinction. He said he coached “with” 15 Hall of Famers, emphasizing collaboration rather than top-down direction.
“I didn’t put them there. Most of them were on the right track before I joined them,” said Harris, who has worked for six full decades and parts of eight. “I learned from them. That’s why I say “with” them.
• Manu Ginobili has underlined how rare his career was by today’s standards. “I spent 16 years playing for the same coach, with the same point guard and the same power forward,” the four-time NBA champion said of Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and the Spurs. “Other teammates for 5-10 years. Same owners, same community, same fans.
Unsurprisingly, Ginobili asked Duncan, a Class of 2020 inductee, to be his official presenter on Saturday night. “I owe Timmy a lot,” he said. “There’s no Hall of Fame talk if Timmy’s not on my team.”
This will be the perfect role for the taciturn Duncan. Presenters, regardless of their star power, simply accompany the Hall of Famer on stage and stand silently during their honoree’s acceptance speech.
* * *
Steve Aschburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.
Comments are closed.