Hoops Hall opens doors to point guards

Associated Press
Steve Nash delivers his speech during Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Springfield, Mass. - Elise Amendola | AP photo

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Ray Allen gave a shoutout to former Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in his Hall of Fame induction speech.

He called his teammates from the 2008 NBA champions “future Hall of Famers.”

Things haven’t been so smooth in their relationship since Allen left Boston to join LeBron James with the rival Miami Heat. Coach Doc Rivers says he wants to get everyone back together. Pierce says he’s moved past it.

Allen says he holds no grudges. But he said this week he didn’t expect to hear any congratulations from his former teammates.

Steve Nash

Wayne Gretzky made an appearance at a different Hall of Fame on Friday night — in the video introducing fellow Canadian Steve Nash.

The hockey great credited Nash with spreading the love of basketball across the country.

“From Vancouver to Newfoundland,” Gretzky said, “he gave them the opening and belief that they could play in the NBA.”

Nash talked about taking up the sport at 13 after playing hockey and soccer as a young child, and struggling to get a Division I scholarship offer. But he entered the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine as the No. 3 assist man in NBA history.

Don Nelson was Nash’s presenter. The former coach was almost unrecognizable with his deep tan and long, wavy gray hair and beard.

“You got Nellie off of Maui,” Nash said. “And you got both of us in a coat.”

Tina Thomson

Tina Thompson was alone at the podium for her Hall of Fame induction speech because presenter Cheryl Miller couldn’t make it.

Thompson said it wouldn’t feel right to have anyone else as a substitute.

Thompson was the first-ever draft pick in the WNBA, a four-time champion in that league and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd went through his entire pro and college career thanking people who helped him reach the Basketball Hall of Fame. He thanked his parents and his wife and his siblings.

Then, he paused and stared out the crowd at Springfield’s Symphony Hall and said: “I’m done, I just wanted to enjoy this moment.”

Kidd is one of three point guards in the Class of 2018. Steve Nash and Maurice Cheeks were also among the 13 players, contributors and coaches to be inducted on Friday night.

Dino Radja

Dino Radja wore a red and white checked tie for his Hall of Fame induction in a shoutout to his Croatian heritage. The pattern is the national symbol for his home nation.

Radja played four years for the Boston Celtics but he earned his way to the Hall of Fame in Europe, where he was a champion in three different countries. He also won two Olympic silver medals, one for Yugoslavia and one for Croatia.

Radja said he cried for 10 days when he learned he would be inducted in the Hall and choked up as he began his speech.

“Playing basketball was easier,” he said.

Lefty Driesell

Former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell broke up the crowd at the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony with a recap of a career that saw him graduate from Duke and go on to win more than 100 games each at four schools.

Driesell said he was told to speak for five minutes, but every time he stopped to ask if his time was up, the crowd at Springfield’s Symphony Hall shouted back: “No!”

Former Tar Heel Charlie Scott followed Driesell and said if the Duke guys were going to go over their time limit, so was the guy from North Carolina. Scott was the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship at North Carolina. He led the Tar Heels to back-to-back Final Four appearances and was a five-time all-star in the ABA and NBA, winning the 1976 NBA title with the Boston Celtics.

Rick Welts

Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts used his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech to read a letter that he might have written to himself as a 10-year-old boy.

Welts became a ballboy for his hometown Seattle SuperSonics at 16 and then had his dream job, as Sonics public relations director, at 24. The team made the NBA finals the next two years and won it all in 1979.

But Welts told his younger self that the most important thing he did was come out as gay in 2011. He was the first openly gay NBA executive, and he said he was “overwhelmed and humbled by the support.”

New York Liberty coach Katie Smith used her speech to shout out her home state of Ohio. The former Ohio State Buckeye is the top scorer in women’s professional basketball history.

Maurice Cheeks

Maurice Cheeks is the first of three great point guards in this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class.

The former Philadelphia 76ers star broke down in tears during his induction speech Friday night.

“Charles told me not to cry, but I’m about to talk about my mother right here,” he said, calling her “My very first coach, Mama Cheeks.”

Julius Erving approached him to pat Cheeks on the shoulder while he wiped his eyes.

Cheeks is now an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A four-time All-Star who was a member of the Sixers’ 1983 championship team, he retired as No. 5 on the NBA’s career assist list. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are also in this year’s class.

Cheeks said he was intimidated when he first arrived in Philadelphia.

“Can you imagine as a rookie, walking into the gym and the first person you see is Dr. J?” he said. “I remember almost turning around and walking out.”

Rod Thorn

Longtime NBA executive Rod Thorn knows what he’ll be remembered for.

Although he played eight years in the league and coached in both the NBA and the ABA, it was the selection of Michael Jordan when Thorn was the Chicago Bulls general manager in 1984 that cemented his place in basketball lore.

Thorn made sure to shout out to Jordan in his Hall of Fame induction speech on Friday night.

“Thank you, Michael, for your friendship,” Thorn said. “I know I wouldn’t have a Wikipedia page without you.”

Grant Hill

Grant Hill made sure in his Hall of Fame induction speech to thank the doctors who kept getting him back on the court.

Hill had a 19-year NBA career before he finally retired at the age of 40 in 2013. He missed the entire 2003-04 season with an ankle injury and played fewer than 50 games in a half-dozen other seasons. But he made seven All-Star teams to go with a pair of NCAA championships at Duke and an Olympic gold medal.

The son of former Dallas Cowboys running back Calvin Hill thanked his parents and college coach Mike Krzyzewski, a 2001 inductee. Hill is the first Duke player to be enshrined in the hall, and he said: “I might be the first Duke ballplayer in the hall of fame, but I can promise you I won’t be the last.”

Steve Nash delivers his speech during Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Springfield, Mass.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_AP18251106056376.jpgSteve Nash delivers his speech during Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Springfield, Mass. Elise Amendola | AP photo

Associated Press