Posts Tagged ‘Artis Gilmore’

Pat Williams had the Magic vision

ORLANDO – Before Dwight Howard took Orlando’s NBA team hostage … before Shaquille O’Neal stole and then, three years later, broke the hearts of Magic fans everywhere … before Howard, O’Neal and dozens of other terrific players delighted folks in what had been all football and Mouse ears in central Florida, there was Pat Williams.

Williams was the hustler, huckster, salesman and veteran NBA visionary who, about 25 years ago, got it into his head that pro basketball could thrive where it never had existed.

“It was a wild [vision],” Williams said Sunday morning at the annual NBA Legends brunch, where he was honored with the Hometown Hero award. “It was still kind of an overgrown citrus community. There was no downtown skyline. No Universal Studios. No big airport. … Our pitch was, ‘Don’t look at Orlando today. Look at it 10 years from today. Twenty years from today. Fifty years from today.’ ”

The Magic entered the NBA that day in 1987, joining with expansion teams in Miami, Charlotte and Minnesota for the buy-in price of $32.5 million. Today, the Magic franchise is worth an estimated $385 million, according to a story last month in Forbes. The team is in its second season, in its second downtown area, with its second Hall of Fame-worthy big man making folks nervous on the day of its second NBA All-Star Game – none of which would have happened even once if not for Williams’ passion.

“Pat was such a pain in the neck trying to get an expansion franchise in Orlando that we finally granted it,” NBA commissioner David Stern teased.

The man to whom Orlando owes its NBA experience, at 71 still a senior vice president of the team, has had his plate full lately: Williams has been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact, which affects blood plasma in his bone marrow. He went through traditional chemotherapy treatments and, when that didn’t achieve the results he needed, underwent a stem cell transplant. He is said to be holding the cancer at bay now, Magic president Alex Martins said after the brunch.

Williams long NBA career took him from public relations duties in Chicago to general manager responsibilities in Atlanta and Philadelphia before he took on the Orlando quest. He was the lucky Magic executive who saw his club land consecutive No. 1 lottery picks in 1992 and 1993, which he parlayed first into O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, then into a 1995 Finals appearance for the young team.

Williams’ busy private life is just as remarkable, filled with books he has authored, endless speaking engagements as a motivator and, with his wife Ruth, as a parent to 19 children, 14 of them adopted from four countries. At one point, 16 of them were teenager, when “I realized why some animals eat their young,” Williams quipped.

Others honored at the 13th annual Legends brunch, with Mt. Rushmore types such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the audience, were:

  • Hall of Fame scorer Dominique Wilkins as the Legend of the Year, for his basketball achievements but also for his work in fighting diabetes and as a Boys & Girls Club Alumni Hall of Famer.
  • NBA/ABA center Artis Gilmore, finally inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame last summer, received the Legends’ Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Nick Anderson, Orlando’s first-ever draft pick (No. 11, 1989), was presented with the Humanitarian Award for his work in the Magic’s community.
  • Hardaway received the Young Legends Award.
  • Magic Johnson also was recognized in a tribute to his All-Star MVP performance in the previous ASW held in Orlando. Diagnosed in November 1991 with the HIV virus, Johnson came out of his abrupt retirement to score 25 points in game and set up his participation later that year in the original Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Hall of Fame Countdown Begins …

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Good news with the induction ceremony hours away: There were showers earlier in the week and more expected as soon as Saturday, but it’s sunshine and blue skies today in a perfectly timed break for the outdoor red-carpet arrival ceremony. And you thought Dennis Rodman wasn’t on good terms with the man upstairs.

The uniqueness of the NBA portion of the Class of 2011 is unmistakable. Artis Gilmore, Satch Sanders and Tex Winter had long waits to get in. Chris Mullin had a long personal path – as a recovering alcoholic since early in his pro career – to get in. Rodman had a long road out of obscurity in high school and college to get in. Arvydas Sabonis had long periods of frustration because of injuries. This is a group tied by perseverance.

Hall president and CEO John Doleva has a different read, and it’s a good one. He regards this as a different kind of class because it does not have any glittering presence, a contrast all the more obvious in the wake of consecutive years of overwhelming star power. The 2010 enshrinement was one of the great NBA gatherings of all time, in fact, with Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen joining the 1960 Olympic team (Jerry West, Oscar Robertson) and the 1992 Dream Team as group inductees.

Rodman is obviously a big name, but he was never more than the third-best player on a championship team. Mullin was hardly an electric player who drew crowds on the road, and his election is based on a great career at St. John’s. Sabonis is here for his international impact, not his time with the Trail Blazers. Winter rode the rock-concert life with the Jordan-Pippen Bulls and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers but would take talking Xs and Os in a quiet corner over the glam any day.

A down-home collection, Doleva calls it, noting this is a group of extreme workers, not physical marvels who would leave fans slack-jawed. That’s not a good analogy for Winter, a non-player, but while he is best known in coaching circles as an originator of the triangle offense, the common recognition is as a top assistant for Phil Jackson during nine title runs. Not the name at the top of the marquee.

A few other thoughts as the ceremony approaches:

  • It could be a very emotional night. Gilmore welled up Thursday just thinking about what it will feel like to be on stage Friday night and predicted he will be fighting back tears. Rodman will probably break down. One of Mullin’s closest friends, Mitch Richmond, said he thinks there is a good chance Mullin will have an uncharacteristically emotional moment at reaching the peak. Winter will be embraced in warmth as he makes a rare appearance in front of a large gathering while still showing the effects of a 2009 stroke.
  • It’s a particularly special night for the Bulls. Rodman and Gilmore played in Chicago and Winter coached there. Jackson will present Rodman and Winter in a ceremonial, non-speaking role. (Jackson showing at all, despite no interest in attending such events, is a testament to his level of respect and friendship for Winter in particular.) ESPN Radio’s Jim Durham, winner of the Curt Gowdy Award for excellence in the electronic media, is a Chicago native and former Bulls broadcaster. NBA communications executive Brian McIntyre, winner of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor the Hall bestows short of enshrinement, is formerly headed marketing and media relations for the Bulls.
  • Sam Smith had great reads on Rodman and Winter for
  • While there are no visible signs of damage around Symphony Hall, where the gala event will take place tonight, or a half-mile away at the museum itself. This is still a city and an area recovering from a deadly June tornado. The path of destruction passed about 200 yards from the Hall of Fame, barely missing the kind of direct hit that could have forever wiped away some of the sport’s greatest treasures. The property was used as a staging area – command center, emergency vehicles, first responders, helicopters taking off and landing in the parking lot – in the immediate aftermath.

Rodman Shouldn’t Be Surprised

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dennis Rodman claims that his inclusion in the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 was a “big surprise.”

It shouldn’t be.

Rodman’s entry to the hallowed hall should not surprise anyone, including the colorful former two-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time NBA champ and rebounding machine.

“It’s unreal,” Rodman said earlier today in Houston, where the announcement was made. “I looked at the way I am, and I thought I wouldn’t get in.”

The travesty would have been the voters keeping Rodman out for all of the same reasons.


The Hall should call Gilmore and King

LOS ANGELES – It was good to hear national director of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo say that the Hall of Fame nominating process was to going to become more transparent and also more welcoming to players who’ve been overlooked in the past.

Now when the voters get it right with Bernard King and Artis Gilmore we can conclude that the system has been fixed.

Yes, there are plenty of other candidates who merit another look. But it continues to be almost beyond belief that Gilmore and King cannot get a foot inside the front door.

Gilmore had the numbers and the longevity and respect of all of the other centers who went up against him in his 17 years in the ABA and NBA. He was a first-time All-ABA center in five seasons with the Kentucky Colonels and that was after leading Jacksonville to the NCAA Final Four.

King, though he had personal problems off the court, was simply magnificent during his prime seasons in the NBA in the 1970s and 1980s.

In fact, Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins says that King is the most glaring omission from the Hall in his opinion.

“I was always confident of my ability and pretty fearless on the court during my career,” Wilkins has said. “But Bernard King was the one guy that put some fear into me as far as trying to guard him. There were times when I couldn’t. He could be unstoppable, an amazing talent and I think it’s time that his talent and ability should be recognized.”

If Colangelo and the Hall of Fame are going to sweep up players who have been brushed under the carpet, Gilmore and King are two of the most deserving places to start.