The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame officially inducted 12 new members into its hallowed ranks on Sunday afternoon during a glamorous ceremony in Springfield, Mass.
Gary Payton, Bernard King, Roger Brown and Richie Guerin were recognized for their achievements as players in the NBA, while Jerry Tarkanian, Guy V. Lewis, Sylvia Hatchell and Rick Pitino were honored for their excellent efforts as coaches in the college ranks.
Oscar Schmidt—widely regarded as the top scorer in basketball history (unofficially, in club and international play)—finally received his much-deserved induction, and Dawn Staley was inducted for her outstanding WNBA and collegiate career. Former deputy NBA commissioner Russ Granik and “The Grandfather of Black Basketball” Dr. E.B. Henderson were both honored as contributors to basketball.
In addition to the spectacular dozen that were inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday, there were a number of superstars in attendance as both spectators and presenters. Just look at the seating arrangement the NBA posted via Instagram:
Some of the most popular figures in the game today took the time out of their day to congratulate those being honored, including future Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant:
Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams chimed in to congratulate Payton, also known as “The Glove”:
New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton gave a shoutout to King for finally making it into the HOF:
Not only that, but former President Bill Clinton also congratulated some of this year's inductees.
Congratulations to my friends and new Hall of Famers, @dawnstaley and Rick Pitino. Thanks for inspiring us for so many seasons.— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) September 8, 2013
Let’s take a look at some highlights from the ceremony.
“The Glove” took the stage with an iPad, drawing laughs from the audience when he joked that he hoped the power wouldn’t go out during his speech.
He thanked Shawn Kemp for helping him become an elite player and forming one of the most exciting tandems in basketball during the 1990s. Payton referred to that Seattle SuperSonics team as the original “Lob City.”
"Thank you Shawn Kemp, the Reign Man - you talk about those guys in LA but we were the original Lop City." Gary Payton— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) September 8, 2013
Payton wasn’t modest either, telling the crowd that he liked his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame after his stellar career.
NBA Stats broke down the numbers, and it’s clear as day why the veteran point guard will be forever enshrined in Springfield.
King has had to wait a long time to finally get inducted into the Hall of Fame, and his speech reflected that.
When he first went up to the podium, he simply let out a “wow” and said it was amazing to be there.
He was extremely thankful for his fans and the Knickerbockers organization, as their support allowed him to receive the proper recognition for his contributions to the NBA.
Before injuries derailed his career, King was one of the league’s best scorers. Just check out his key numbers courtesy of NBA Stats to see why.
If that wasn’t convincing enough, have a look at this highlight reel, courtesy of Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff, to see just how good King was and why he deserves to be here:
Granik served as the NBA’s deputy commissioner under David Stern for 22 years before being replaced by Adam Silver.
"The most influential person at the NBA was of course David Stern ... the best possible education of running a sports league." - Russ Granik— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) September 8, 2013
His speech was tinged with humor, telling the crowd that he was proud to have a Wikipedia entry until he found out that he was best known for being the announcer of the second-round draft picks.
Guy V. Lewis
Lewis came up with a trio of elite players he coached during his 30-season tenure with the University of Houston.
Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were all on stage as Lewis—who won 592 games during his time with the Cougars—was enshrined.
Guerin was sentimental in his acceptance speech, saying that he wished he could challenge the stars of today and prove that his generation was just as good as the players we revere in the modern game.
"I wish, like the other veteran players in the Hall of Fame, that we could challenge the stars of today's game." Richie Guerin— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) September 8, 2013
Dr. E.B. Henderson
Unfortunately, Dr. Henderson passed away in 1977 and did not live to see himself enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
He was honored with an inspirational video that showed how many of the modern-day players have him to thank.
Brown unfortunately passed away in 1997, prior to his enshrinement.
His son, Reggie Brown Jr., was on hand to accept the honor, while a video featuring Indiana Pacers legends Reggie Miller and Mel Daniels was played for the audience.
Hatchell seemed absolutely shocked that she would be joining the annals of basketball history with her induction on Sunday.
She said she has been wowed by the idea of that every morning since finding out in April. Hatchell credited her faith and mentioned that she is blessed to be in this position.
“The Shark” drew a standing ovation for being one of the most exciting and innovative coaches ever seen at any level of basketball.
Tarkanian was controversial and often under NCAA scrutiny during his active years, but his legacy has only grown since retiring over a decade ago.
He won over 700 games in a career that saw him coaching at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State.
Tarkanian’s greatest accomplishment is winning the 1990 national championship with the Rebels, although his induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame is certainly up there.
Staley joked about how she was uncomfortable speaking in front of a crowd, thanking her presenters for standing up there with her and making it a bit less painful to speak.
The current coach called her induction the “final victory” of her playing career.
Although she said she had jitters on stage, she certainly wasn’t nervous on the basketball court, as the retired star is widely regarded as one of the top WNBA players in history.
She won three gold medals for Team USA in the Olympics and put up huge numbers as a member of the Charlotte Sting during her prime.
Schmidt spoke at length about how he had dreamed his whole life about entering the Hall of Fame. He finally achieved that goal.
He addressed those who wondered why he never joined the NBA despite being drafted. He said it was because the lowly New Jersey Nets didn’t take him until the sixth round with the 144th pick, and that was after his incredible Olympic performance.
"People ask why I never played in the NBA. I was drafted by the Nets ... in the 6th round. 144th ... after the Olympics." Oscar Schmidt— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) September 8, 2013
The Brazilian superstar is the all-time leading Olympic scorer. He participated in three Summer Games and is the only player to eclipse the lofty 1,000-point mark.
Pitino received his much-deserved enshrinement on Sunday and gave the final speech of the day.
The longtime head coach found success almost everywhere, from his humble beginnings at Boston University and Providence to winning national championships with Kentucky and, most recently, Louisville.
Pitino gave much of the credit to his players, as he said, "Coaches don’t just get into the Hall of Fame. Players put them into the Hall of Fame.”
"Coaches don't just get into the Hall of Fame. Players put them into the Hall of Fame." - Rick Pitino— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) September 8, 2013
He’s coached some elite talent during his time, but Pitino is being quite modest.
His most recent national title team featured just one first-round draft pick, and his knowledge of basketball’s X’s and O’s is largely what helped them to achieve success.
Regardless, it was a powerful speech from a man who absolutely deserves to be forever remembered as one of the top coaches in the history of the game.