2014 Hall of Fame

Horry’s HOF scale … does it exist?


VIDEO: Robert Horry, a seven-time NBA champion, earned his nickname “Big Shot Bob” the old-fashioned way!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Whenever his name is mentioned, the words “NBA legend” usually accompany Robert Horry.

How else should one refer to a man who in 16 NBA seasons collected seven championship rings, played alongside some of the game’s all-time greats, earned the nickname “Big Shot Bob” for his clutch shooting heroics on the biggest stage and has become a cult figure with his own measurement for big shots (All Ball’s famed Horry Scale)?

Horry piled up championship experiences during his playing days that many of his more celebrated contemporaries would trade All-Star nods for. And perhaps even some of that cash they made. What would you want more, the adulation, fortune and fame — all of which inevitably fades over time — or the timeless prestige of seven, count ’em seven, championship rings?

I’d have to think long and hard about that one, really!

The purists have every right to laugh off the Horry belongs in the Hall of Fame argument. He never averaged more than 12 points per game during any season in his career, and he didn’t reach double digits once during his final 12 seasons in the league. Horry only started in 480 of a possible 1,107 games he played in during the regular seasons of his 16 years.

Still, few players were feared the way Horry was with the ball in his hands late and the game on the line. And therein lies the dilemma for a specialist, a role player extraordinaire like Horry. There is no metric available that would bolster his case for entry into the Hall of Fame, his individual numbers (a ho-hum 7,715 career points and nary an All-Star bid) just do not stack up to the Hall of Fame water line. And yet you feel like there has to be some sort of recognition for someone who has accomplished the things Horry did during his career.

He was eligible for consideration with the 2014 class and didn’t make the cut. Horry will join a deep pool of carryover candidates for the 2015 class, headlined by newcomer Dikembe Mutombo, and a star-studded group that includes the likes of Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Spencer Haywood, Chris Webber and Penny Hardaway. They all have stronger individual cases than Horry but possess none of the championship hardware he brings to the party.

Horry reminds me of the NFL specialists who have struggled for years to gain entry to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It took Ray Guy, arguably the greatest punter in football history, forever to crash through that glass ceiling.

Complicating matters for Horry and others is the fact that the recognition in the Naismith Hall of Fame isn’t just about what a player has done during his professional career. It’s a culmination of an entire life in the game, from high school to college and all the way up to the very top of the heap.

Horry played a significant part in Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant gobbling up the championship rings that highlight their respective credential lists. If you don’t believe it, ask Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich, all-time great coaches who know the worth of a truly game-changing role player.

While I’m not ready to argue that Horry deserves to be immortalized in Springfield the way the best of the all-time best have been and always will be, and deservedly so. I do think there needs to be some sort of special recognition for a an elite specialists like Horry, a guy whose accomplishments, even in a supporting role, are unparalleled by anyone else during his era.

Can’t he get a plaque or commemorative brick or something to acknowledge his unique contribution to the game?

Ultimately, Horry might have to settle for the scale, the universal love he gets from all corners of the basketball galaxy and the knowledge deep down that there are plenty of men already in the Hall of Fame and on their way who would do anything for just one of his seven rings!

Mutombo tops first-time Hall candidates


VIDEO: Basketball Without Borders: Africa

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The look-ahead at the candidates with NBA ties eligible for the first time for the Hall of Fame’s potential Class of 2015 requires no squinting into the distance. It does not require looking at all, come to think of it.

That voice. No one mistakes the sound, part thunder, part Cookie Monster, often accompanied by a fog horn of a laugh.

The visual is so unique, though. No need to see the face, in smile or the scowl of an intimidating defender, or the imposing 7-foot-2, 265-pound frame or the signature No. 55 that followed him through 18 seasons and six teams. Only one form of ID is necessary.

A finger.

An index finger poked into the sky, wagging back and forth a few times, a windshield-wiper admonishment to whatever foolish, naïve opponent with an obvious need to be embarrassed tried to take the ball to the rim against Dikembe Mutombo.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-Star and college standout at Georgetown is not only the leading candidate for enshrinement among players eligible for the first time to be nominated, he is the only candidate. Not officially, of course, because the likes of Bruce Bowen and Brent Barry are among candidates beginning with the Class of 2015. But realistically, there is Mutombo alone among peers who last played in 2008-09.

Sitting in the audience Friday night at Symphony Hall as longtime friend Alonzo Mourning was inducted — along with, among others, former commissioner David Stern, a prominent supporter of Mutombo’s years of humanitarian work — may also have been Mutombo getting an advance look around. At the very least, he should breeze through the first round of voting, with results scheduled to be announced at All-Star weekend in New York, before an additional second balloting necessary for candidates in the North America and Women’s categories.

Several NBA carryover contenders will have strong cases, most notably Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Spencer Haywood. Bowen, Barry, Bobby Jackson, Matt Harpring, Tyronn Lue, Mark Madsen and others are now options. And Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway and Robert Horry could join the field after not being nominated for 2014 enshrinement despite being eligible. Mutombo, though, is the only new name with a chance to make it all the way to Springfield at the earliest opportunity, finger in tow.

 

Hall of Fame inducts unique group


VIDEO: David Stern’s Hall of Fame speech

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — They made for an eclectic group: two players who came from long distances to make their true legacy impacts, Alonzo Mourning and Sarunas Marciulionis; two non-players who never went anywhere, David Stern and Bob Leonard; and one player, Mitch Richmond, who uniquely rode a bad team into the Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2014 was officially enshrined Friday night inside Symphony Hall, and the newest living Hall members with NBA ties framed so much about the league and the game.

Mourning was the toughness. That would have been the case anyway, Zo and tenacity having become close acquaintances long before, but he retired, played again, and played well. After a kidney transplant. Briefly choking up early in his acceptance speech, Zo, also someone who goes way back with strong emotions, changed nothing.

Marciulionis was the globalization. Once named one of the 50 greatest players in FIBA history for leading roles with the national teams of the Soviet Union and his native Lithuania, he reached the Hall through the International Committee. But he reached a new level by refusing to back down from his dream of the NBA and became one of the symbols of expansion. What he fought through showed he could do the toughness thing, too.

Leonard and Richmond were the local ties, the grassroots feel of the league even as it grew into a conglomerate, Leonard home-spun Indiana as coach of the ABA and NBA Pacers and then a team broadcaster to this day, Richmond one of the reasons the link between the small-market Kings and the fans remained strong from one losing season to the next. Far from the bright lights, with Indy literally trying to save its pro basketball life and Sacramento screaming itself hoarse every home game with little payback in the standings, they were reason for optimism in hard times.

It’s like Leonard said in concluding his acceptance speech: “The only thing left to say is I’ve had a love affair with the fans and the people in the state of Indiana. We call ourselves Hoosiers. And they’ve been very supportive. It’s a love affair that has gone on for years, since I was [a player] at Indiana University. And I wish that it could last forever. But I know better than that. So as I look around this room, the Lord has had His hand on my shoulder. Here’s what I hope for all of you: That the Lord puts His hand on your shoulder and He blesses you all the years of your life. Thank you.”

Stern was pretty much everything, of course. Like Leonard, he was a constant, in Stern’s case as commissioner through the days drenched in money falling from the sky to the tumultuous moments that also define his rule from 1984 until 2014. And the swagger. There had to be a grand display because Stern could be so good at brash.

So display of power it shall be. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and other all-time greats appeared in the video introduction. Then five tall, bar-stool chairs were lined up on stage. Bill Russell sat in one, a few feet off Stern’s left shoulder. Magic Johnson sat next to Russell. Russ Granik, Stern’s former No. 2, sat next to Johnson. Larry Bird sat next to Granik. Bob Lanier sat next to Bird.

Some people get big names. Stern gets Mt. Olympus.

“You’ve got to love the game,” he told the crowd. “Everything we do is always about the game. Always about the game. When [wife] Dianne and I were in China, we had a guide that told us she was a big fan of the Red Oxen. Of course, she was corrected. She meant Bulls. When we were in Lithuania, the head of the Communist party of Kaunas, Sarunas’ hometown, wanted to argue with me. It was 1988. Didn’t I think the NBA salary cap was un-American because there was no room for Portland to sign [Arvydas] Sabonis. We were all over. When I was in Paris, I was sitting with the prime minister of France at a game. He said because it was the Bulls, could he go into the locker room? I thought, here it comes. Michael Jordan. He said, ‘I’d like to meet Dennis Rodman.’ It’s always about the game.”

There is a different feel to every induction class, and the 2014 group that also included the Immaculata women’s teams of the 1970s, Nolan Richardson, Gary Williams, the late Nat Clifton and the late Guy Rodgers was every angle, and sometimes every unusual angle, to the point of being comprehensive. They touched a lot of what makes the game special. They framed the league.

Team USA planning Paul George tribute

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Team USA will keep Paul George on the roster for the 2016 Olympics and is looking into options for a salute when the World Cup begins later this month, even if it means pushing for a change in international rules, the managing director of USA Basketball said.

While dismissing the possibility of the ultimate tribute of keeping George on the active roster for Spain and letting him likely win a medal without playing, saying each of the 12 spots are too valuable, especially with the United States thin on the front court, Jerry Colangelo said there are plans to make sure the injured star is a visible presence in Spain. Wanting to add to George’s motivation during the comeback from a broken right leg, Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski have also already made it clear to the Pacers small forward that he is expected to be in the lineup in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“We’ve told him we have a spot for him in ’16,” Colangelo told NBA.com at festivities Thursday in advance of the Friday enshrinement of the Hall of Fame class.

Without seeing how he comes back?

“Right,” said Colangelo, also the Hall chairman. “That’s what we told him.

“We thought it’s the right thing to do,” Colangelo said. “That’s it…. We didn’t give thought to all the detail. Just that when a guy goes down and all these things, the circumstances, his career passes before him, he’s out for a year, a year-plus, he’s not able to participate now with us — we wanted to throw that out and say, ‘We’re counting on you. You’ve got a spot in ’16.’ ”

Making George feel part of the team in Spain is more challenging. USA Basketball has looked into a uniform patch with his initials or jersey number, and adopting the NBA tradition of writing a message on shoes, but the rules of FIBA, the sport’s international governing body, prohibit altering uniforms. So USAB may move to change the rules.

“As far as the players are concerned, this is a rallying point in terms of what happened to Paul,” Colangelo said. “We just want to take some steps that are yet to be determined that we’re talking about to bring attention to Paul George and what his contribution has been.”

Other developments as part of three days of events highlighted by the enshrinement of the Class of 2014 …

  • The final list was released for the presenters on Friday night, the current Hall of Famers who will accompany the newest inductees to the stage Friday night but have no responsibility beyond standing to the side during a speech. Mitch Richmond picked Chris Mullin and Ralph Sampson, Bob Leonard picked Mel Daniels and Larry Bird, the family of the late Guy Rodgers picked Earl Monroe, Sarunas Marciulionis picked Mullin, Alonzo Mourning picked Pat Riley and John Thompson, and David Stern picked Bird, Magic Johnson, Bob Lanier and Russ Granik.
  • Among the Class of 2014 without NBA ties, Nolan Richardson picked Thompson and Nate Archibald, the Immaculata women’s team of the 1970s will be represented by Cathy Rush, the late Nat Clifton by Meadowlark Lemon, and Gary Williams picked Billy Cunningham.
  • While Marciulionis is happy to be in the same class as long-time friend and former teammate Richmond, he is especially pleased to note the timing of being inducted with Stern, the former commissioner who turned international players making the jump to the NBA from experiment to commonplace. “He helped European basketball, our basketball, so much by opening those gates with the Soviet Union,” Marciulionis said. “I remember him in ’86 when he arrived in Moscow and we had those Atlanta Hawks games. To be in the same line with him is a great, great honor. It’s destiny. Unbelievable.”
  • Mourning: “I’m truly excited about this enshrinement. There’s no other place to go from here but heaven, to tell you the truth. The beauty of it all is this. You wait all your life, you put your heart and soul into the game of basketball, truly put your heart and soul in. For some instances for me, I put blood, sweat and tears into it. This is the reward for your passion for the game and playing the game the right way and contributing to the game. This is the reward for doing that. I’m excited about celebrating.”
  • Near-perfect weather is forecast for Friday night and the outdoor red-carpet arrival, before moving inside for the actual enshrinement.

Attles, several others saluted by Hall


VIDEO: Al Attles is being awarded the John. W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — He accepted a job teaching at a junior high school in his hometown of Newark, N.J., coming out of North Carolina A&T and figured he’d play in the Eastern League for fun on weekends. That’s how sure Al Attles was he had no real future in basketball.

He packed for one week when he set off for Hershey, Pa., and training camp as a Philadelphia Warriors rookie in 1960. That’s how sure Attles was he would have a short NBA life.

And now look. The teaching thing never worked out. And that short life in pro ball turned into 54 years with the same organization, leading to Attles being saluted tonight with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame, the highest honor from the basketball museum short of enshrinement.

Attles played for the Warriors for 11 seasons, averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He coached them for 13, resulting in six playoffs berths, two division crowns, the best mark in franchise history (59-23 in 1975-76) and the only championship in the West Coast era, the 1975 Finals win over Washington. He was general manager for three more seasons.

Now a community ambassador and a beloved member of the organization, he will be recognized as part of the Hall of Fame festivities that culminate with induction ceremonies for the Class of 2014 on Friday night at Symphony Hall.

“Alvin Attles contributed over 50 years to the Warriors and to the game of basketball,” John Doleva, the president of the Hall said when the honor was announced in February. “He impacted the lives of so many as a player, coach, ambassador and executive during his NBA tenure. We are honored to recognize coach Attles with this prestigious award.”

Others being saluted the next two days, in addition to Alonzo Mourning, David Stern, Mitch Richmond, Sarunas Marciulionis and Bob Leonard, in the Class of 2014:


VIDEO: Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton highlights

Nat Clifton, with induction via the Early African-American Pioneers of the Game committee. Clifton played for the Harlem Globetrotters and for eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 10 points and 8.2 rebounds. Also in the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, he passed away in 1990.

Guy Rodgers, with induction via the Veterans committee. Rodgers led Temple to a pair of Final Four appearances, was a unanimous All-America in 1958 and played 12 seasons in the NBA, twice finishing first in assists. He passed away in 2001.

Nolan Richardson, with induction via the North American committee. Richardson coached Arkansas to the 1994 national championship and three Final Fours as part of a career that also included an NIT title at Tulsa, a junior-college crown with Western Texas and a college coaching mark of 509-207.

Gary Williams, with induction via the North American committee. The Maryland coach made 11 consecutive tournament appearances in the 1990s and 2000s, won the national championship in 2002, led teams to seven 25-wins seasons and finished 668-380.

Immaculata University, with induction via the Women’s committee. The school won three straight AIAW championships, from 1972 to 1974, while going 60-2 and became the first women’s team to play a nationally televised game. The roster included three future members of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame: Theresa Shank, Marianne Crawford and Mary Scharff.

Joe Gilmartin (print) and John Andariese (electronic), with the Curt Gowdy Media Award. Gilmartin was a columnist for the Phoenix Gazette for more than 30 years, wrote for the Suns’ website, was the team’s television analyst in the 1980s and was voted Arizona sportswriter of the year a record 16 times. Andariese has been a color commentator on Knicks games since 1972, when he teamed with Marv Albert, later joined TVS, ESPN, Turner, did radio broadcasts and currently handles Knicks duties for MSG Network.

Former referee Bob Delaney and former Charlotte owner Robert L. Johnson, with the Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award for “striving to improve the community, making a commitment to others, hard work and embracing the core values of the game.” Delaney, a former New Jersey State Police officer who worked undercover to fight organized crime, was cited for his work in providing awareness and education on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, is saluted for his philanthropic work.

Mourning election a big Heat moment

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: Alonzo Mourning talks to Jim Nantz after his election to the Class of 2014

Sure Gary Payton counts. But he played just two of 17 seasons in Miami, with a ring from the 2006 championship but also with his mortality showing as the last two of the 17 and The Glove more nickname than accurate description.

Alonzo Mourning, though, is pure Heat.

That’s what made Monday so meaningful, beyond the obvious individual salute with the official announcement that Mourning had been elected to the Hall of Fame. It was a moment for the entire franchise. It was a moment for all South Florida.

In joining 2013 inductee Payton as the second former Miami player to be enshrined, “Zo” became the first Miami player, and that’s more than semantics. Mourning came to a team in 1995-96 that had never finished better than fourth in the Atlantic Division and had a winning record once in seven years of existence. Titles, and not of the division variety, followed. Unlike anyone in uniform, and second only to Pat Riley in any job, he made them.

The election of Mitch Richmond was also made official Monday in Dallas in conjunction with the Final Four, along with induction for college coaches Gary Williams and Nolan Richardson as part of the Class of 2014 that already included David Stern, Sarunas Marciulionis and Bob (Slick) Leonard among others. Mitch Richmond is a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native.

Enshrinement festivities are Aug. 7-9 in Springfield, Mass., but just try avoiding the South Florida feel. It won’t happen. One of the best players the region ever produced and the physical presence of a center who helped forge the identity of future champions will walk the red carpet at Symphony Hall, and it will be an event at the far tip of the Eastern seaboard.

“I’m humbled and I’m truly honored to be able to stand here before you today and to know I’m going to be a part of such a prestigious group of individuals that helped pave the way for a lot of individuals to experience this,” Mourning said on the television broadcast of the announcement. “Again, I’m very, very grateful. I stand here on the shoulders of so many other people.”

The significance impossible to miss that so many other people from the Heat have stood on his shoulders while playing 10 and 1/2 of his 15 seasons in two stints with the Heat. The second Miami run was as part of the 2006 title team, which will become the starting place for this latest moment of Mourning helping to take the franchise to the future.

Dwyane Wade won that championship too, and he will be in the Hall. Same with Shaquille O’Neal, headed for 2017 induction after spending only 3 and 1/2 seasons along Biscayne Bay but as first-team All-NBA in two of them. Tim Hardaway, gone from Miami by then but forever linked to the Heat, was a finalist this year and could make Springfield one day.

And then there’s the current group, of course. LeBron James. Wade, from both generations of Heat. Ray Allen. Chris Bosh. It is possible to imagine going from zero players to seven with deep Miami ties being enshrined in a relatively short span of history, depending how long James plays, and eight counting Payton. Nine counting Riley, a 2008 inductee as coach.

Mourning will have been the guy who — typically — showed all the other players the way.

Hall of Fame debate: Spencer Haywood

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: Four-time NBA All-Star Spencer Haywood was a handful on and off the court

Controversial. That word comes up a lot.

“I am a controversial figure,” Spencer Haywood said, ducking nothing. “It’s about time they bring a controversial figure into the fold.”

Pariah. That’s a word Haywood has used himself. Outcast. Contentious. Persona non grata.

He has heard them all, used many and embraced some. Twelve seasons of playing in the NBA, one in the ABA, two others in college, two more in Italy, a summer with the U.S. Olympic team … but Haywood rarely played other people’s games. Being a follower, listening to conventional wisdom — that was for other people.

Haywood is the finalist with NBA ties for the Hall of Fame this year who touched the most history, generated the most controversy and conquered the world on the most levels. High school state champion in Michigan. Olympic gold medalist. All-America at the University of Detroit. MVP and Rookie of the Year at the same time in the ABA. Four-time All-Star with the SuperSonics. NBA champion with the Lakers in 1980. An average of 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game in the NBA and ABA.

Oh, and he sued the NBA.

Spencer Haywood in 2007 (Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE)

Spencer Haywood in 2007 (Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE)

Haywood left Detroit after his sophomore season in 1969 for the ABA Denver Nuggets, averaged 30 points and 19.5 rebounds, set four single-season records and then signed with the SuperSonics. When the NBA blocked the contract under the provision that players had to be four years out of high school, he sued. And when the NBA stood firm, he took the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Haywood won in 1971, a landmark decision that eventually led to college underclassmen (and, later, high schoolers) leaving to join the NBA . But he also lost. A long and successful run with the Sonics, Knicks, New Orleans Jazz, Lakers and Bullets that should have been celebrated, at 19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, wasn’t.

“They should view my career in a total package,” Haywood said of the 24 anonymous voters who will rule on his place in history for the Hall, an outcome that will be announced Monday at the Final Four. “I have the Olympic career. I was the outstanding college player of the year. I won a high school championship. I went to the ABA, was Rookie of the Year, leading scorer, leading rebounder, player of the year and MVP of the All-Star game. I left the game after 14 years with 20 and 10. That’s pretty serious stuff there. I had a great career. And also, I went to the Supreme Court to have Haywood vs. the NBA. That rule has ushered in all of these players. The Jordans, the Magics, the Birds. All the way up to LeBron and Kobe and those guys today.”

Conflicting views on Haywood’s career are everywhere. Averaging 20 points a game six times in the NBA and just missing (at 19.9) another … yet constantly being traded or waived. Having his No. 24 retired by the SuperSonics … and a cocaine addiction, and fallout that included reportedly falling asleep during a Lakers practice during the 1980 Finals.

That one of Haywood’s greatest moments came when he actually played by society’s “rules” is too often overlooked. In 1968, amid searing racial tensions on campuses, as organizing boycotts and protests around the Summer Games began, Haywood, an African-American, declined to participate. He went to Mexico City with pride.

“I had a U.S. passport and that meant that I am an American, and we are always fighting for our country,” Haywood said. “That’s what the Olympics are all about. It’s not about the individual, it’s not about anybody. It’s about America. We are the champions. We are the United States of America. I had no issue about that. I loved my Olympic year.

Harry Edwards [one of the protest organizers] beat me down pretty good. I was 19 years old. I was 18 years old when I made the team. I was a freshman in college. I was the miracle child that happened on the scene and everybody was like, ‘This guy’s going to save us.’ Yeah, there I was. Saving America.”

Haywood, a 6-foot-9 forward-center, made 71.9 percent of his shots and averaged 16.1 points. The United States won the gold. Saving America.

Talented. That word comes up a lot too.