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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Reflections on the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony

I wrote about the 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class in April after the inductees were announced but after watching Friday night's enshrinement ceremony I have a few additional thoughts to share.

It was wonderful to see George McGinnis' Hall of Fame acceptance speech. McGinnis, the only Hall of Fame eligible NBA or ABA regular season MVP who had not been inducted, talked beautifully and poignantly about how Oscar Robertson inspired him by leading the first all-black team (Crispus Attucks) to win an Indiana high school basketball championship. McGinnis described how he dropped 53 points and 30 rebounds in an Indiana-Kentucky high school all-star game just nine days before his father's death. That would be the last time his father saw him play and his father had told him how proud he was, a moment that clearly means a lot to McGinnis more than 40 years later.

McGinnis' Hall of Fame presenters were Artis Gilmore, Spencer Haywood, Rick Barry and Bobby "Slick" Leonard and McGinnis had special words for each of them. Regarding Gilmore, McGinnis spoke fondly of their Indiana-Kentucky ABA Finals battles in 1973 and 1975. McGinnis thanked Haywood for paving the way for underclassmen to jump straight to professional basketball and McGinnis added that he used his $15,000 signing bonus as a down payment on the house where his mother still lives to this day! McGinnis said that ABA players called Barry "the professor" because of all of the lessons that Barry taught them on the court. McGinnis called his former coach Leonard a "father figure" who has provided great advice and counsel over the years.

Mannie Jackson's speech was simply spellbinding. He spoke of his rise from being born in a boxcar to being a member of six boards of directors--but before he said a word about himself, Jackson spent a lot of time making an impassioned and eloquent plea for an end to the basketball historical revisionism that denies the Harlem Globetrotters' importance for the early NBA. Jackson noted that the Globetrotters were an elite level team in the 1940s and 1950s, fully capable of playing on even terms with the best NBA teams. Globetrotters' owner Abe Saperstein scheduled Globetrotters' games to be the first part of doubleheaders before NBA games, providing an attendance boost for the young league.

Jackson said that basketball played a big role in breaking down Jim Crow discrimination by providing an example of diversity, acceptance and inclusion.

Here is Jackson's speech in its entirety:

Tracy McGrady's speech concluded the evening. McGrady is still salty about his first NBA coach, Darrell Walker, telling him that he was lazy and would be out of the league in three years. It seemed for a moment that McGrady was going to go the Michael Jordan route and revisit every past grudge from his career but then McGrady shifted gears and he delivered a heartfelt and profound message to his four children: focus on your character, not your reputation. Character is who you are in private, which means much more than what people think about you because character represents what you actually are.

Every year it is a treat to hear each new Basketball Hall of Famer describe his or her journey to achieving the sport's highest honor.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:59 PM



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