SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Two days of ceremonies at the Basketball Hall of Fame began Thursday night with the major awards short of enshrinement, with Grant Hill reinforcing that character matters, with Pat Williams flashing his signature humor, with Bill Schonely and Sam Smith telling a story a different way, and with former superstars dotting the crowd of several hundred people as part of the annual Reunion Dinner of previous inductees.
Hill, the Clippers forward, accepted the Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award in the professional division for community contributions and overcoming adversity. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was the recipient from the amateur ranks, and Richard Lapchick, president and CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport as well as founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport, in the “Grassroots” category.
Williams, the Magic’s senior vice president, received the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor from the Hall short of enshrinement. He talked through a career as general manager with four teams as few could, noting how while with the 76ers he told young Charles Barkley to get in shape, only to have Barkley respond, “Mr. Williams, round is a shape.” Or how a balanced meal to Barkley was a Big Mac in each hand.
Schonely, the former Trail Blazers play-by-play man and current community ambassador for the team, and Smith, the long-time Chicago Tribune writer and now at Bulls.com, stood at the podium and talked about themselves as winners of the Curt Gowdy Media Award for broadcast and print, respectively.
Wayne Embry, winner of the Chairman’s Cup, was unable to attend.
The audience at the Hall of Fame included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Moses Malone, many others previously inducted, and most of the Class of 2012 that will be enshrined Friday night about a mile away.