Last Friday, SB Nation announced the ten 2014 inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, with one of my personal favorite players, Alonzo Mourning, headlining the class.
His fellow inductees include David Stern, three other players, one women’s basketball team, three coaches and one other “contributor”. The list is as follows:
- David Stern, who took over the NBA as commissioner in 1984 after serving as EVP for the prior four years. He ruled over the NBA for the next 30 years, until handing it over to Adam Silver. He helped grow the league into one of the world’s most popular, adding 7 teams and exponentially increasing TV viewership. He also oversaw the creation of the NBA Draft age requirement, NBA Draft Lottery and NBA Developmental League. Multiple lockouts may have left imperfections on his otherwise stellar resume, but all in all, Stern was an exemplary leader of what is now one of the finest sports institutions globally.
- Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton is the second African American to ever sign an NBA contract, becoming one of the first in the league, along with Earl Lloyd and Chuck Cooper.
- Alonzo Mourning was one of the best big men of the last few decades. He was a seven-time All Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the NBA All-First Team. His tenacity and passion on the court was only matched by his resilience and character off the court, as he struggled with and beat a life threatening kidney disease to not only regain his health, but make it back into the game to become an Olympic gold medalist in 2000 AND win an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006.
- Mitch Richmond was one of the league’s best scorers in the late 1980s. He went on to earn Rookie of the Year, boasts a career average of 21 points per game, made five NBA All-teams, was a six-time NBA All-Star and was an Olympic gold and bronze medalist.
- Guy Rodgers was a four-time NBA All-Star that was an integral part of Wilt Chamerblain’s historic 100-point game, where he dished out 20 assists. He also holds the Chicago Bulls’ single season record for assists with 908.
- Sarunas Marciulionis may not have the best record of statistics, but was a pioneer in his own respect as he helped pave the way for the internationalization of the league. This Lithuanian was the first Soviet player in the NBA, in the process, helping to also develop Lithuanian basketball.
- Nolan Richardson helped turn Arkansas into a college basketball powerhouse in the early 90s with the infamous “40 Minutes of Hell” style of intense defense. He took Arkansas to 3 Final Fours and won a national title in 1994, earning him the Naismith Coach of the Year award.
- Gary Williams turned around a struggling Maryland program, leading them to their first ever Final Four in 2001 and a national title the following year. He ultimately took them to 11 NCAA Tournaments. He won coach of the year twice and retired in 2011 to become the school, his alma mater, Assistant Athletic Director.
- Bob “Slick” Leonard joined the coaching ranks after his time in the NBA. He is the winningest coach in ABA history thanks to his time at the helm of the Indiana Pacers, where he led them to three ABA titles and five ABA finals. He currently serves as the Pacers’ color commentator.
- Immaculata University women’s team won three consecutive AIAW National Championships from 1972-1974, going an unbelievable 60-2 over those three seasons under Hall of Fame head coach Cathy Rush. They were the first women’s college team to play on national television and at Madison Square Garden. A few of their players are also Hall of Famers, including Theresa Shank, Marianne Crawford and Mary Scharff.
Next time you just happen to be in Springfiled, Massachusetts, make sure you stop by the Hall of Fame to pay your respects to these and the many other greats.