Monday, May 27, 2013

NBA Hall Of Fame Ceremony: 2009 (Stockton, Jordan, Sloan, Robinson)

A Hall of Fame Class Like No Other
(By Michael Wilbon, Washington Post, September 11, 2009)

It would be a fabulous team, these four men in their primes playing together. John Stockton, the all-time NBA assists and steals leader, would be the point man. Jerry Sloan, a tough guard and nasty defender before he ever became a coach, would play alongside Stockton in the back court. David Robinson, a two-time NBA champion who once averaged 29.8 points a game, would be the center. And Michael Jordan, the greatest artist in the history of team sports, would play small forward.  Throw in a savvy enforcer and screen-setter at power forward, maybe Rick Mahorn, and they'd win the NBA championship every other year for a decade. And they'd be smart enough to see right past gender and happily play for an accomplished coach like C. Vivian Stringer, a woman who took three programs to the NCAA women's Final Four while surviving breast cancer and raising a daughter disabled by spinal meningitis.

 It's as impressive a class as one can imagine that will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night in Springfield, Mass. Even the presenters glitter; all are Hall of Famers themselves. Stringer will be presented by the man she once shared a gymnasium with at Cheney State, John Chaney. Stockton will be presented by a curious choice but the worthiest of opponents, Isiah Thomas. Sloan will be presented by his biggest booster outside Utah, Charles Barkley; Robinson by one of his coaches, the great Larry Brown, and by the most popular Spurs player, George Gervin; Jordan by the sky walker he loved so dearly as a child, the largely forgotten Peter Pan of the 1970s, David Thompson.

All Hall of Fame classes are distinguished by nature. As a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter once said in defending why he voted against some perennial all-pro, "It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good."  Even so, this class is a wow, and not just because of Jordan, though he still tilts the room. NBA Commissioner David Stern, in a piece he authored for the Chicago Sun-Times this week, said, "Michael is transcendent. He is up there with Muhammad Ali and Pele."  The others are more humanly remarkable, but two -- Robinson and Stockton -- are certainly worthy of standing alongside Jordan. In fact, they were his teammates on the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the 1992 U.S. men's Olympic basketball team. They were late bloomers, all three of them. Stockton played his college ball at Gonzaga long before the school became a fixture in March Madness. Bob Knight cut him during the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball trials and Sloan, the same Jerry Sloan, wouldn't fully trust him to run the Jazz until his third season in the NBA.

Robinson grew up in Manassas, and attended the Naval Academy. I remember, like it was yesterday, getting a call at my desk in the newsroom from Tom Bates, then the director of sports information at Navy, who said, "You gotta come see our center, David Robinson and write about him." I said, "You mean the skinny left-handed kid from Northern Virginia who was a freshman last year? What's so special about Robinson? He's a 6-foot-6 center."  There was a brief silence, then Bates said, "He grew five inches over the summer. He's 6-11 now." I drove to Annapolis for the very next game, and watched Robinson play in person countless time over his final three years at the Naval Academy.

Keep in mind that even though Robinson led Navy to a region final matchup against Duke in 1986, his junior year, he absolutely played in the shadow of Maryland's Len Bias and (even more so) Georgetown's Patrick Ewing. Here's Robinson's line in his final college game, a first-round NCAA loss in 1987 to Michigan: 40 minutes played, 22 of 33 from the floor, 50 points, 13 rebounds. Do you know how many players have had 50 points in a NCAA tournament game since? None. Zero.

Robinson was drafted No. 1 overall but had to honor his commitment to the Navy -- he could have transferred out but didn't -- and couldn't play immediately in the NBA. Instead, Robinson played in two of the most famous losses in U.S. Olympic history: one to Brazil in the Pan American Games and one the very next year to the Soviets in the 1988 Olympics. Of course, over time Robinson recovered nicely. Teaming with Tim Duncan in the city that has very much become his adopted home, Robinson won two NBA championships. And he did it during a time in which Karl Malone and Stockton, coached by Sloan, were building a long-running show in the Western Conference.

Stockton might be the least-known superstar in modern NBA history. He rarely gave long interviews, rarely chatted after games and revealed almost nothing of himself in more than a dozen years. Yet, Stockton was revered by both his teammates and opponents. The top players in the NBA at the time said, unanimously, that while Malone was a great player, Stockton was superior in all the ways that counted. It was Stockton who had the ball at the end of games, Stockton who made the key steal, Stockton who made the big shots, one that eliminated Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in a bitterly contested Western Conference playoff series.  The coach of those Utah teams, which made it to the Finals twice only to lose to Jordan's Bulls, was Sloan. It seems as if Sloan was the only coach the Jazz ever had. It's 21 years and counting, actually; he's the longest-tenured coach in professional sports in America. And as Barkley always notes, Sloan's teams never spent the kind of money the Knicks spend, and never could attract the top free agents. The Jazz scouted better than most and Sloan coached better than most -- coached like he played, with great emphasis on preparation, unselfishness and physical and mental toughness.

When I was a child growing up in Chicago, my father took me to the old Chicago Stadium on a great many occasions to see the Chicago Bulls of Sloan and his back-court mate, Norm Van Lier. The way they played was the only way to play. Sloan, in terms of toughness, was the NBA's version of Jim Brown. He'd fight a bear, I always thought as a kid. Of course, that's the personality of his Utah Jazz teams, and while most people see his entrance into the Hall of Fame as a coach, those of us who watched him play see no need to separate the coach from the player he was in Chicago.  Sloan, in fact, was the greatest player in Bulls history -- until Jordan came along in 1984. And nothing in basketball has been the same since.

Six championships, two Olympic gold medals, more scoring titles and points scored and last-second shots made and highlight videos sold than need to be enumerated again. You ask kids growing up in Chicago right now, born after Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998, who their favorite basketball player is and they'll tell you, "Michael Jordan."  While Stern, in his piece in the Sun-Times, goes out of his way to mention Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving and Bill Russell, he still acknowledges that Jordan's contribution is, well, "different." . . . . "The league grew tremendously on a global basis when Michael and the Bulls were coming into prominence," Stern said. "Michael stands at a special place in the development of the NBA as a global sport."  And because of those contributions, and the legacy of the Dream Team, the 2009 class will always stand out in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Leads Class Of Five Into Basketball Hall
(NBA website, 2009)
It was only a matter of time, and now Michael Jordan is in the Hall of Fame.  Jordan was elected to the class of 2009 along with David Robinson, John Stockton, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer.  The announcement was made in Detroit, site of the men's Final Four. Induction is Sept. 10-12, 2009 in Springfield, Mass., home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  Jordan's Hall of Fame selection was a slam dunk after he retired as perhaps the greatest player in history. And he gave much of the credit Monday to his college coach.  "There's no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith," he said.
His soaring dunks, Nike commercials and "Air Jordan" nickname helped stamp him as one the most recognizable athletes around the world. He finished a 15-year career with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards with 32,292 points — the third-highest total in league history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. His final career average of 30.12 goes down as the best, just ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.07.  The five-time NBA MVP won six championships with the Bulls and another in college with North Carolina.  Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was an assistant with Carolina on that 1982 national championship team and was at Monday's induction, where Ty Lawson won the Bob Cousy award, given to the nation's top point guard.  Jordan retired twice during his career. He first came back to the Bulls in 1994 and won three more championships before retiring again in 1998. He then had an ill-fated two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before calling it quits to stay in 2003.
Monday, he joked that when he saw Stockton and Robinson he was ready to put his shorts on again.  Jordan won two of his titles in the 1990s against Sloan, Stockton and the Utah Jazz.  Stockton spent his entire career with the Jazz and finished with 19,711 points, 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. He also holds NBA records for most assists in a season (1,164 in 1990-91) and highest assist average in a season (14.5 in 1989-90).  "Growing up I never thought about the Hall of Fame," he said. "All I wanted was a chance to go to college."  Utah took Stockton in the first round of the 1984 draft, using the No. 16 pick on a relatively unknown player from Gonzaga who became one of the top point guards.  "I haven't given this much thought over the course of a lifetime," he said. "I'm not sure it quite strikes home until you're standing here."
Robinson, who earned the nickname "The Admiral" from his college career at Navy, joined Stockton and Jordan as members of the NBA's 50th anniversary team.  He had a stellar 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs that included two NBA championships, an MVP season, a rookie of the year award, 10 All-Star selections, a scoring title and two Olympic gold medals.  Robinson, too, credited his coaches over the years who "kicked me when I need to be kicked and hugged me when I needed to be hugged."
Sloan, who did not attend the ceremony, is the longest tenured head coach in major league sports with a single franchise. A two-time All-Star during his playing days with the Bulls, Sloan is the only NBA coach to win more than 1,000 games with a single team. He has the Jazz in seventh place in the Western Conference standings going into Monday night's games.
Stringer has led three separate teams to the Final Four in her 38-year career and has an 825-280 mark spanning four decades. She trails only Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt on the victories list. Stringer guided Rutgers to its fifth straight regional semifinals trip this season.  "My knees are weak, and to think I would be standing here with these great, great men of basketball," Stringer said. "It's not ever about me. It's about the players who all make it happen."

Jordan Goes From Classy To Clown
(By Terence Moore, Washington Post, Sep 12, 2009)

When it's your party, you can cry if you want to, and you also can embarrass yourself if you want to. Just ask Michael Jordan, who spent his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night doing his version of dancing naked on a coffee table with a lamp shade on his head.  What was that?  Whatever it was, it wasn't good. It rivaled anything you can name through the decades as the most brutal Hall of Fame acceptance speech ever. Soon after receiving a standing ovation of 73 seconds from a packed and adoring house at Springfield Symphony Hall, he went from sobbing to reflective to vicious.  I mean, where is Sandman (you know, that guy who yanks terrible acts off the stage at the Apollo Theatre) when you need him?

It was this brutal Friday night: Anybody who bothered Jordan mentally, physically or spiritually in hoops during his 46 years was assassinated with his tongue. The coach who cut him from his high school team in Wilmington, N.C.  Buzz Peterson, who was named high school player of the year in North Carolina over Jordan.  His archenemy with the Chicago Bulls, Jerry Krause. Several NBA coaches who worked for his teams and against his teams.  Doubting media types.  Opposing players Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, George Gervin, John Starks and Byron Russell.

Oh, and Jordan even gave a gentle whack to the knees to Dean Smith. According to Jordan, he still is miffed that his former head coach at North Carolina told Sports Illustrated in 1981 to go with four Tar Heel starters on its cover instead five, which would have included the freshman Jordan.  If that wasn't enough, Jordan looked at his two sons and daughter, shrugged and then said, "You guys have a heavy burden. I wouldn't want to be you guys."  Nice touch, Michael. So was this: With youngsters watching back home during this prime time telecast, Jordan turned to David Thompson nearby and said, "I know I shocked the (bleep) out of you." He was referring to Thompson's likely reaction after he received Jordan's call to be his presenter for the event. Thompson is a fabled alumnus of North Carolina rival North Carolina State.

In other words, it was a blessing that those who decide such things blew it this time. Jordan's meltdown aside, they needed one ceremony for the only person that folks really cared about among this year's class, and they needed another for those deserving but thoroughly misplaced inductees not named Michael Jeffrey Jordan.  I mean, what were those who run the Hall of Fame thinking?  They weren't. Well, unless they were omniscient enough to see Jordan racing in his Air Jordans toward that lamp shade.  That said, you can't turn Jordan into a basketball immortal with others, no matter who they are or what their qualifications. It also doesn't matter that such a move of designating Jordan as a solo induction act would be unprecedented. He is peerless, and come to think of it, they sort of understood as much around here.

You could tell by the way they decided to have John Stockton, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and Vivian Stringer arrive for the evening festivities one by one -- long before Jordan's considerable entourage. Those others had two motorcycle policemen leading their shiny Rolls Royces to the red carpet that stretched from the edge of Court Street to the aged steps of the hall. Then, as the largest crowd in the 50-year history of this event roared in the distance, Jordan arrived with four motorcycle policemen and a couple of more cops next to his antique car on bicycles.  They applauded the others. They roared for Jordan.

To say this was awful timing for those others to join the elite of the hoops elite with Jordan is to say the man of the moment fired the only blatant air ball of his life earlier in the day. That's when a considerably more humble Jordan stood at a podium inside of the Hall of Fame's center court, studied those across the way with only thoughts of impossible dunks, Craig Ehlo and an eternally wagging tongue on their minds and said with a straight face, "Contrary to what you guys believe, it's not just me going into the Hall of Fame. It's a group that I'm proud to be a part of, and believe me, I'm going to remember them as much as they remember me."  Doubtful. Still, there are many things to remember about those others, ranging from their accomplishments on the court to their speeches on Friday. While dribbling down the stretch of his talk, a highly emotional Robinson implored everybody to have God walk with them "they way He walked with me." Then came Stockton, who left his typically stoic ways to choke on his words when discussing his deceased mother.

Later, Stringer spoke about how we all go "through our trials and tribulations" while referring to the tragic death of her husband and her battle with cancer. Then Sloan gave a sometimes funny and often poignant review of his life that would have ended 32 years ago had he taken a head coaching job at Evansville, his alma mater. Months after he turned it down, the team plane crashed and killed everybody on board.  Jordan was last to take the stage.  Oh, boy.  At one point near the beginning of Jordan's speech of 21 minutes and 30 seconds, he asked those listening, "What is it about me that you don't know?" He proceeded to give us the answer in detail -- unfortunately. 



For Starters: 5 Greatest Point Guards
Posted Sep 07, 2009 10:30AM By Matt Steinmetz (RSS feed)

 Who doesn't like a list, especially on a Monday morning when that's about all you can handle?  This one's for John Stockton, who is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame next weekend. But he'll likely be overshadowed by Michael Jordan, David Robinson and even his old coach, Jerry Sloan.  That's almost fitting because if there was ever a player who didn't seek out the limelight or look to bring attention upon himself it was Stockton. A truer point guard, the NBA has never seen.  He was business and focus all the time. I remember trying to interview him before a game in the mid-1990s. I wanted to talk to him about all the scoring point guards who were in the league at that time, players such as Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway and Allen Iverson.  I asked him if he thought a trend was developing -- from passing points to scoring points. Stockton considered the question for a moment, began answering, then stopped abruptly.  "Do you mind coming back and asking me these questions afterward?" Stockton said. "I've really got to get ready for this game."

One guy's opinion on the five best point guards in NBA history:

1. Nate Archibald: His 1972-73 season (league-leading 34 points per game; league-leading 11.4 assists per game) will probably never be duplicated. And don't forget, he shot 49 percent from the floor that year. His final touch of greatness was helping lead the Boston Celtics to the 1981 title.

2. Bob Cousy: Depending on who you ask, some might replace Cousy with a Jason Kidd, Steve Nash or Payton. Wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but we're still committed to giving Cousy, an original, a place on this list.

3. Magic Johnson: C'mon.

 4. John Stockton: There has never been a point guard who has understood the position more than Stockton. When it came to making teammates better, nobody has ever done it any better than Stockton. Nobody.

5. Isiah Thomas: Few point guards had the total package that Thomas had. He could run an offense and lead a team as well as anyone. He could penetrate, knock down the jumper and find the open man. And there were few point guards who could take over like Thomas when the game was on the line.


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