This Friday, hardwood greatness will be enshrined forever as the basketball Hall of Fame introduces the much heralded inductees of 2009. This year’s class is notable because it features a record breaking point guard, a highly decorated first overall pick who delayed his entrance into the NBA to meet his service requirements, and a coach who is the corner stone of a franchise.
Oh yeah…and a guy who got cut from his high school team on his way to becoming arguably the most extraordinary and influential person to ever step on a basketball court.
Already, the in-coming group of John Stockton, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and (of course) Michael Jordan are being considered the best class ever.
So much consideration is being given to this class that ceremony has been moved from the 1,200-capacity Center Court room to Springfield Symphony Hall, with seating for 2,611. This is the first time such preparations have been made for the event.
It’s understandable why the Hall president John Doleva feels the move is necessary. In terms of the NBA's development, the “Jordan Era” during the 90s was a time when the league experienced a period of rapid exponential growth.
In fact, the ratings for the NBA finals during Jordan’s title runs in the years before retiring from the Bulls in 1993 and 1998 turned in the highest audience for an NBA title series at 27.21 million and 29.04 million viewers respectively.
In comparison, the last finals matchup between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, widely considered the rivalry that began to attract casual fans to the NBA, drew 24.12 million viewers.
(Note: the 1979 NCAA finals featuring Johnson and Bird is the still to this day the highest rated televised basketball game of all time.)
Beyond ratings, Jordan’s affect was felt in other ways. He was a trailblazer in marketing and promoting products. He can be thought of as the first of the modern product endorsers.
Thanks to him, brands such as Nike had us wondering if “it was the shoes” or Jordan creating magical moments on the court. Gatorade had us all chanting that we wanted to be “like Mike.”
He was the first notable professional athlete to crossover into the fragrance industry and let’s face it he made talking about men’s underwear cool.
Today his Jordan Brand has signed some of the best athletes across sports, including Derek Jeter, Ray Allen and Marvin Harrison, and it sponsors one of the top high school basketball all-star games in the country.
Still, to be the best class ever, it takes more than just one person. John Stockton overtook Magic Johnson to be the all-time leader in assists and holds the title by close to 5,000 dimes over the next candidate Mark Jackson.
He also holds the record for all-time steals by a margin of about 700 thefts over the immortal one, Jordan himself.
Stockton played his majority of his career under coach Jerry Sloan. As a player, Sloan was a member of the only other Bulls team that wasn’t lead by Jordan to win an NBA title.
Sloan is the longest tenured head coach in American major league sports and the only coach to win 1,000 games with one franchise. Sloan began his NBA journey as the fourth overall pick of the Baltimore Bullets in 1965.
David Robinson was the first overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs in 1987. After completing two years of service with the United States Navy, Robinson entered the NBA and took home rookie of the year honors.
Robinson had a noteworthy career as he was continually amongst the players chosen for all-league honors. He retired in 1999 after winning his second NBA title.
Anyone who witnessed the majesty that was Jordan on the court knows his legacy so no need go into his accolades here.
The basketball hall fame class of 2009 is a fine one to be sure. Greatest of all time? Well I’ll leave that to the pundits. But for the moment the argument is valid and an intriguing one.
Only time will tell whether this class or a newer one (perhaps featuring a certain King from Cleveland) will be met with as much anticipation.
Other notable classes:
- Richard F. “Rick” Barry
- Walter “Walt” Frazier
- Robert J. “Bob” Houbregs
- Peter P. “Pete” Maravich
- Robert F. “Bobby” Wanzer
- Nathaniel “Nate” Archibald
- David W. “Dave” Cowens
- Lawrence “Larry” Fleisher
- Harry J. Gallatin
- Robert M. “Bob” Knight
- Lawrence F. “Larry” O’Brien
- Borislav “Boris” Stankovic