Air Jordan. Magic. Kareem. Dr. J.
Some of the greatest basketball players of all time spent Friday night just five minutes northeast of Suffield, as more than 40 previous Hall of Fame inductees gathered to welcome the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
A half-dozen former Boston Celtics legends were present, including Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, John Havlicek, Tom "Satch" Sanders, Larry Bird and Bill Walton. Superstars such as Charles Barkley, Rick Barry and Isiah Thomas joined Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving as presenters of the new enshrinees.
In order of induction, the honorees were:
- Ralph Sampson, a 7'4" center who was three-time NCAA Player of the Year at the University of Virginia;
- Don Barksdale, a posthumous inductee who was the first African-American to be named NCAA All-American, the first to play on a U.S. Olympic team and the first to play in the NBA All-Star Game;
- the All-American Redheads, the first women's professional basketball team;
- Jamaal Wilkes, a two-time NCAA champion at UCLA and a four-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers;
- Lidia Alexeeva, head coach of the USSR Women's Natioal Team for 22 years, including Olympic gold medals in 1976 and 1980;
- Don Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history with 1,335 victories;
- Katrina McClain, a two-time All-American at the University of Georgia and a two-time Olympic gold medalist;
- Hank Nichols, who spent 40 years with the NCAA as referee and supervisor of officials;
- Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike;
- Mel Daniels, a two-time ABA Most Valuable Player and seven-time ABA All-Star;
- Chet Walker, a seven-time NBA All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls;
- Reggie Miller, the second-leading three-point shooter in NBA history who joins his sister Cheryl as the only brother-sister combination to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Quotes from the induction ceremony:
- "My dad taught me how passion builds success early in life." - Derek Barksdale (speaking on behalf of his late father, Don Barksdale)
- "It's amazing how the championships followed that guy around." - Bill Walton (speaking of Jamaal Wilkes)
- "Make each day your masterpiece, you can't do anything about yesterday, it's over." - Jamaal Wilkes (quoting legendary UCLA coach John Wooden)
- "I accept this on behalf of all referees, who uphold the integrity of the game." - Hank Nichols
- "His brand today sells more product than when he was at the peak of his game." - Phil Knight (speaking of Michael Jordan)