Class 2021 of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

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By Henry L. Liao

A total of 16 personages from the Class 2021 will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 12 Manila time.

Paul Pierce led the Boston Celtics to their first NBA championship in the post-Larry Bird era in 1988.
Paul Pierce led the Boston Celtics to their first NBA championship in the post-Larry Bird era in 1988.

Of the 16, nine have NBA connections either as a player or coach.

The new HOF inductees are the following:

  1. PAUL ANTHONY PIERCE was a 6-6 forward who earned an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 after a 22-year drought by the Hub City outfit. It was the only Larry O’ Brien Trophy annexed by the franchise since the post-Larry Bird era.
  2. BEN WALLACE was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2002-2003-2005-2006) and snared a league championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004; Big Ben, who played 16 seasons with Washington, Orlando, Detroit (twice), Chicago and Cleveland from 1996 to 2012, made the Hall in his fourth attempt.
  3. Mayce Edward Christopher (Chris) Webber, a 6-10 frontline the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year with the Golden State Warriors who later suited up for Washington, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Detroit and concluded a 16-year career with the Warriors in March 2008 (due to knee problems) following a two-month fling. Webber, who never won a championship, later became an NBA color analyst. He made it to the Hall in his eighth year of eligibility.
  4. Christopher (Chris) Bosh, a 6-10 frontliner who saw action with the Toronto Raptors (seven seasons) and Miami Heat (six) during his 13-year career (2003-16) that produced two championships with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat in 2012 and 2013. The Dallas, Texas native was forced into retirement in 2016 at age 32 due to a blood clotting condition that the NBA ruled to be a career-ending illness. Bosh and Pierce were elected to the Hall in their first year on the ballot.
  5. A blood clotting condition forced Chris Bosh to hung up his jersey in 2016 after securing a pair of NBA title rings with the Miami Heat.
    A blood clotting condition forced Chris Bosh to hung up his jersey in 2016 after securing a pair of NBA title rings with the Miami Heat.

    Robert (Bob) Dandridge earned his HOF induction through the Veterans Committee. He was a 6-6 wingman who played 13 NBA seasons with Milwaukee and Washington from 1969-82. He won a title ring with the Bucks in 1971 (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson) and with the Bullets in 1978, being one of only 30-plus players in NBA annals to win multiple titles with different franchises.

  6. Toni Kukoc, who is currently a Special Advisor to Chicago Bulls team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, made it to the Hall via the International Committee. The 6-11 from Split, Croatia played 13 NBA seasons (1993-2006) with Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee, won a title “three-peat” with the Bulls from 1996-98 (perhaps the fourth-best player on the team behind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman) and was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1996.
  7. Bill Russell is the fifth man to be elected to the HOF as a player and as a coach. The goateed 6-10 center, now age 87, is the winningest player in NBA history with 11 championships in a sterling 13-year tenure with the Boston Celtics, including a pair as a playing coach for the Green in 1968 and 1969.
  8. Richard Leonard (Rick) Adelman played seven forgettable NBA seasons with five teams from 1968-1975 before spending 23 years in the league as a vagabond head coach with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota from 1988 to 2014. He coached the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 but lost each time.
  9. Toni Kukoc secured three straight NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1996-98 and is still connected with the Windy City organization until now.
    Toni Kukoc secured three straight NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1996-98 and is still connected with the Windy City organization until now.

    Lowell (Cotton) Fitzsimmons spent 21 seasons (1970-97) as an NBA head coach with Phoenix (two tours of duty), Atlanta, Buffalo Kansas City and San Antonio and Phoenix. He never was an NBA player and not once did he coach a team to the NBA Finals in registering an 832-775 record.

The other HOF honorees are Jerold Taylor (Jay) Wright, a two-time NCAA championship coach with Villanova University in 2016 (over North Carolina) and 2018 (over Michigan); Yolanda Griffith, a seven-time WNBA All-Star; Lauren Jackson, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player awardee; Pearl Moore, a four-time AIAW Small College All-American who was selected by the Women’s Veterans Committee; Clarence Jenkins, who was elected as an Early African-American Pioneer; Val Ackerman, a former WNBA president; and Howard Garfinkel, the creator of the Five-Star summer camp who was selected to the Contributors’ category.

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Not once, but twice

My GOAT Bill Russell will be among the 16 honorees to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 12 Manila time.

Chris Webber finally made it to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in his eighth year of eligibility.
Chris Webber finally made it to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in his eighth year of eligibility.

Russell, the winningest player in NBA history with 11 championship rings in 12 trips to the Finals during an illustrious NBA tenure, was first inducted in 1975 as a player but he boycotted the enshrinement ceremony at the time because the members of the Honors Committee that voted on the selection were all whites. Decades later, the 6-10 center would accept his Hall of Fame ring.

On September 12 the 87-year-old Russell will be inducted into HOF once again, this time in the coaches’ category.

Russell was the first Black head coach in NBA history, taking over the Celtics’ mentoring reins as a playing coach before the 1966-67 wars following the resignation of the venerable Arnold (Red) Auerbach.

In 1968 and 1969, Russell powered Boston to the NBA crown before calling it quits as a player in the summer of ’69. He was the first Black coach in any of the four major US. Pro team sports leagues to capture a title in 1968.

The two-time NCAA championship star (1955/1956) out of the University of San Francisco returned to NBA coaching in 1973-74 with the Seattle SuperSonics (the predecessors of the Oklahoma City Thunder). He coached in Emerald City for four seasons (162-166).

Undrafted, Ben Wallace stepped up to become a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year awardee with a title ring to boot from the Detroit Pistons.
Undrafted, Ben Wallace stepped up to become a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year awardee with a title ring to boot from the Detroit Pistons.

Russell spent another season of X-ing and O-ing with the Sacramento Kings in 1987-88 but was dismissed 58 games (17-41) into the season.

Russell, who currently lives in Seattle, posted an overall NBA coaching ledger of 341-290 or a. 540 winning clip.

Russell is the fifth personage to be inducted into the HOF as a player and as a coach, joining John Wooden (1960/1973), Lenny Wilkens (1989/1998), Bill Sharman (1976/2004) and Tom Heinsohn (1986-2015).

Rick Adelman
Rick Adelman

Wooden won 10 NCAA national titles with the UCLA Bruins in a 12-year span (1964-75), including a record seven in a row (1967-73), and was the college coach of future Hall of Famers Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after converting to Islam from Roman Catholicism in the summer of 1971) and Bill Walton.

Sharman won four NBA championships (1957-59-60-61) with the Celtics and secured the Coach of the Year award in 1972 after piloting the Los Angeles Lakers to a 69-13 record, including an all-time league mark 33-game winning streak from November 1971 to January 1972, en route to the NBA crown – the Lakers’ first since leaving Minneapolis for LA in 1960-61 – with a 4-1 decision over the New York Knicks in the Finals after dropping the best-of-seven series opener (114-92) at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, California.

Bill Russell will be the fifth personage to be inducted into the Hall of Fame both as a player and coach.
Bill Russell will be the fifth personage to be inducted into the Hall of Fame both as a player and coach.

Sharman joined the pro coaching world in 1968-69 as head coach for the Los Angeles/Utah Stars in the American Basketball Association for three seasons. He then moved over to the NBA and spent seven seasons there – the first two (1966-68) with the San Francisco Warriors and the last five in Hollywood City – in registering a 333-240 (.581) record.

Wilkens never won an NBA ring as a player (1960-75) but he steered the U.S. Olympic to the gold medal during the 1996 Atlanta Games and was an NBA head coach for 32 seasons – including the first three (1969-72) as a playing coach for the Seattle SuperSonics – and posted a 1,332-1,155 (.536) record. He currently ranks No. 2 on the all-time winning charts among the head coaches in NBA regular-season history, trailing only Hall of Famer Don Nelson’s 1,335 (vs. 1,063 losses). Gregg Popovich, who is entering his 26th season with the San Antonio Spurs, is third with a 1,310-53 (.667) record.

Like Russell, Heinsohn won championships with the Celtics as a player and as a coach. He was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1957 (over teammate Russell who came in midway through the season after leading the U.S. to the gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics). Heinsohn owned eight title rings (1957-1959 to 1965) before becoming the Green’s top bench strategist from 1969-78 with an overall 427-263 (.619) mark. He was NBA Coach of the Year in 1972-73 when the Celts went 68-14 and then mentored the club to the NBA mountain top in 1974 and 1976.

Henry Liao
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