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Basketball Hall of Fame 2021: Ceremony Recap, Speech Highlights and Reaction

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 12, 2021

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

On Saturday, former NBA stars Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber headlined the Class of 2021 enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. They were joined by international selection Toni Kukoc, coaches Rick Adelman, Jay Wright and Bill Russell (already in as a player), and former WNBA stars Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith, among other inductees.  

Webber, a five-time All-Star and the best player on the Fab Five Michigan team that influenced the greater culture with their style of play and swagger on the court, was the first to give his speech. 

NBA @NBA

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/21HoopClass?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#21HoopClass</a> enshrinee Chris Webber thanks his parents for the sacrifices they made raising him. <a href="https://t.co/BqG88LOMaG">pic.twitter.com/BqG88LOMaG</a>

NBA @NBA

"He was my guardian angel."<br><br>Chris Webber talks about the profound impact Isiah Thomas made on his life at a young age. <a href="https://t.co/b6yReJb8Dd">pic.twitter.com/b6yReJb8Dd</a>

Rod Beard @detnewsRodBeard

Chris Webber to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pistons?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pistons</a> Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Joe Dumars: "It was an honor to be able to play in my city with you guys."

David Aldridge @davidaldridgedc

I am so happy for <a href="https://twitter.com/realchriswebber?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@realchriswebber</a>. Long overdue, and long deserved, for being a trailblazer and trendsetter in basketball for a lifetime. Welcome to <a href="https://twitter.com/Hoophall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hoophall</a>, my friend.

Webber notably shouted out the Sacramento Kings and their fans during his speech.

"To the best fans in the world, to the Sacramento Kings, I just want to talk a little bit about God's grace," he said. "I want to talk about the fact that God has to lead you, and you're not always supposed to know where you're going or how good it's going to be when you come out on the other side. It's just about trusting Him, trusting God, trusting the process. Sacramento, my faith will forever be strong because God gave me you."

Like Webber, Griffith also thanked Sacramento. 

"To Sacramento, how do you say thank you to the city that completely embraced you?" she said. "To the best fans in the WNBA, you gave us a purpose, a will to always strive to be the best on the court, and without you, there were no Monarchs."

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SportsCenter @SportsCenter

MVP. Champion. And now, Hall of Famer. <br><br>Yolanda Griffith adds another accolade ๐Ÿ† <a href="https://t.co/XEar6mWBeO">pic.twitter.com/XEar6mWBeO</a>

The great Russell, just the fifth Basketball Hall of Fame inductee as both a player and as a coach, was introduced by President Barack Obama:

NBA @NBA

Former President <a href="https://twitter.com/BarackObama?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BarackObama</a> congratulates Bill Russell on his induction into the <a href="https://twitter.com/Hoophall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HoopHall</a> as a head coach. As a player-coach, Russell led the <a href="https://twitter.com/celtics?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Celtics</a> to the 1968 NBA championship, becoming the first African-American head coach to win an <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBA</a> title. <a href="https://t.co/uRdSPsrDYG">pic.twitter.com/uRdSPsrDYG</a>

Boston Celtics @celtics

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/21HoopClass?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#21HoopClass</a> enshrinee, Bill Russell ๐Ÿ <a href="https://t.co/9SY5Sf3IdC">pic.twitter.com/9SY5Sf3IdC</a>

Kukoc, who was inducted for both his accomplishments as an NBA player and for his career overseas before coming to the United States, was accompanied to the stage by his former teammate and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan:

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

Michael Jordan joins the <a href="https://twitter.com/Hoophall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hoophall</a> stage as a presenter as former Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc was inducted. <a href="https://t.co/gsIbK3KnvW">pic.twitter.com/gsIbK3KnvW</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

"I would like to thank this gentleman here... for kicking my butt at the Olympics in Barcelona." ๐Ÿ˜‚<br><br>Toni Kukoc had to shout out MJ during his <a href="https://twitter.com/Hoophall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hoophall</a> enshrinement speech <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/DPMwVtPlK1">pic.twitter.com/DPMwVtPlK1</a>

Four-time Defensive Player of the Year Wallace spoke about legacies in his speech, both on and off the court. 

"The toughest part of life is the most underrated part of life that you would ever hear about," he said. "Winning looks good; legacies are built to last, but what type of legacy are you building?"

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

Hall of Fame inductee Ben Wallace finishes his speech by saying, โ€œPanthers March,โ€ and walked off the stage with his fist proudly held in the air. Wallace is from Lowndes County, Alabama where the Black Panther Party was originally founded. <a href="https://t.co/2yQBcqizfq">https://t.co/2yQBcqizfq</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Hoophall?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Hoophall</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nba?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#nba</a> <a href="https://t.co/tKS2eJFsZt">pic.twitter.com/tKS2eJFsZt</a>

Rod Beard @detnewsRodBeard

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pistons?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pistons</a> Ben Wallace in Hall of Fame induction speech: "I was too small and I couldn't play the game the way they wanted me to play the game...sounds like an uneven game to me. Put me on a level playing field and I'll show you."

James Edwards III @JLEdwardsIII

By not mentioning his career I mean no talks about accolades, highlights, etc. Very unique. Very real. That speech came from deep down.

Pierce, meanwhile, had jokes in his speech. He recounted playing with matches as a young child and burning down his family home, saying God gave him an NBA career so he could make it up to his mother. 

He said he knew Roy Williams, then the coach at Kansas, was the coach for him when he came to watch his high school games in Compton and was the only white person in the gym. 

He said he knew Doc Rivers was a player's coach when he showed up to shootaround one day hungover, and Rivers could tell, telling him to go home and be ready for the game that night. Pierce said he went on to score 30 points in a win. 

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

I love that Paul Pierce used his Hall of Fame speech to share a story about being hungover at shootaround &amp; that he didn't want to talk to Doc Rivers after falling to his knee because his breath "was banging."

And he thanked all of the teams that passed on him at the NBA draft, allowing him to drop to the Boston Celtics with the No. 10 pick.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

"Thank you for passing on me and adding fuel to my fire."<br><br>Paul Pierce really called out the 9 teams that passed on drafting him in his HOF enshrinement speech ๐Ÿ˜‚<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/UEPXP7Ha9g">pic.twitter.com/UEPXP7Ha9g</a>

Oh, and he told a story about bailing out of a cab with Kevin Garnett, too.

B.W. Carlin @BaileyCarlin

Paul Pierce just told a story in his HoF speech about him and Kevin Garnett jumping out of a cab together and not paying. Hilarious.

Cassidy Hubbarth @CassidyHubbarth

Paul Pierce is giving an awesome HOF speech right now

Finally, two-time champion and 11-time All-Star Bosh took to the podium, telling a story about how Pat Riley recruited him to the Heat as a free agent. He said Riley poured out a bag of the championship rings he had earned throughout his career and gave one to Bosh, saying he was loaning it to him until they won one with the Heat together. 

Bosh said he hadn't even agreed to sign with the Heat at that point but took the ring and never gave it back, even after the Heat won two titles. He said he was waiting for the right opportunity to do so, and Saturday's Hall of Fame enshrinement felt like the right moment. 

NBA @NBA

Chris Bosh gives something back to Pat Riley. ๐Ÿ’ <a href="https://t.co/oVhf8Y6tJe">pic.twitter.com/oVhf8Y6tJe</a>

Ira Winderman @IraHeatBeat

Chris Bosh, at Hall of Fame podium, returns to Pat Riley the 2006 championship ring Riley gave him in 2010 free agency, to hold until Bosh won a title with Heat. Bosh won with Heat in 2012 and '13.

Bosh also spoke about Kobe Bryant and what he learned from him. 

NBA @NBA

"Legends aren't defined by their successes, they're defined by how they bounce back from their failures."<br><br>Chris Bosh on what he learned from Kobe Bryant's work ethic. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’› <a href="https://t.co/KbwG8a0hoN">pic.twitter.com/KbwG8a0hoN</a>

He talked about the difficulties he overcame and the tears he shed on his way to the Hall of Fame as well, including losing in the NBA Finals in his first year with the Heat and having to retire at 31 for health-related reasons. 

It was a common theme throughout Saturday's ceremony. You don't get into the Hall of Fame without overcoming adversity, without proving the doubters wrong, without handling the moments of pressure and doubt and overcoming the otherwise overwhelming odds. 

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