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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's 2022 Class Includes NBA Players Lou Hudson, Tim Hardaway, and Manu Ginobili

This year's Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class includes 16 inductees: NBA players Lou Hudson, Tim Hardaway, and Manu Ginobili; NBA coach George Karl; NBA referee Hugh Evans; college coach Bob Huggins; WNBA players Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen; WNBA coach Marianne Stanley; contributors Larry Costello and Del Harris; Theresa Shank-Gretz (selected by the Women's Veteran's Committee); international player Radivoc Korac; Wyatt "Sonny" Boswell, Inman Jackson, and Albert "Runt" Pullins (selected by the Early African Americans Pioneers Committee).

At 20 Second Timeout, I write primarily about professional basketball, so readers who are most interested in the NBA and the ABA may wonder why only three of the 16 inductees are entering the Hall of Fame based on their accomplishments as NBA players (Costello and Karl played in the NBA but are being inducted as a contributor and as a coach respectively). The answer is that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame encompasses all levels and categories of the game, in contrast to, for example, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which focuses exclusively on professional football. It is reasonable to suggest that a new Hall of Fame should be created just for professional basketball, but the NBA is so embedded and intertwined with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame that it seems unlikely that a separate Pro Basketball Hall of Fame will be created in the near future.

Tonight's Hall of Fame ceremony began with a tribute to Bill Russell, who passed away on July 31, 2022. Hall of Famers Jerry West and Alonzo Mourning spoke powerfully about Russell not only as an unparalleled champion on the court but as a human rights champion off of the court as well. After they spoke, the Hall of Fame showed a great video about Russell's life and career. The clip of Russell explaining to a reporter that his children had played with white children and no one had gotten hurt yet is both profound and infuriating: Russell spoke simply and directly, but what kind of racist idiot asks if children of different skin colors can play together?

Hall of Fame acceptance speeches are usually interesting and occasionally riveting, and that was true for this year's ceremony as well. I will focus on the inductees who have some connection to the NBA and/or ABA.

Hardaway was the first speaker of the evening after the Bill Russell tribute. Hardaway's presenters were Yolanda Griffith, Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Isiah Thomas. Nate Archibald was scheduled to be a presenter but was not able to attend. Hardaway called Thomas a "Chicago legend, my first basketball idol" and an inspiration. He also called Griffith a "Chicago hoops legend" who graduated from the same high school (Carver High School) and same class that he did. Hardaway said that his teammates Mullin and Richmond taught him how to be a pro and often asked him, "How great do you want to be?" Hardaway said that his parents' divorce when he was a child hit him very hard, and that it took him a while to adjust to that. He credited his mother for making a lot of sacrifices for him and for his brother Donald, who he called "my number one fan." Hardaway also thanked his father--"the man who introduced me to basketball"--and he thanked his three children, his wife Yolanda, his teammates, and the late Henry Thomas, who he described as not only his agent but also his confidante. He closed by declaring, "This is bigger than Tim Hardaway. This is for the south side of Chicago."

Hardaway averaged at least 20 ppg and at least 10 apg in the same season twice, and he is one of a select group of NBA point guards who had multiple seasons averaging at least 20 ppg and at least 10 apg. Oscar Robertson tops that list with five such seasons, followed by Isiah Thomas (four), Magic Johnson (three), and Kevin Johnson (three). Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook have each accomplished this twice as well. Hardaway made the 1990 All-Rookie First Team and then followed that with three straight All-Star selections before a knee injury forced him to miss the entire 1993-94 season. During that era, season-ending knee injuries often ended careers or at least severely curtailed them, but Hardaway made a remarkable comeback. He never averaged 20-10 again, but he had two more 20 ppg seasons, he made the All-Star team in 1997 and 1998, and he made the All-NBA First Team in 1997 plus the All-NBA Second Team in 1998 and 1999. 

Hardaway was the driving force for the Miami Heat team that reached the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Chicago Bulls. Hardaway will always be remembered for his trademark killer crossover move, also known as the "UTEP two-step"--and he did this move without traveling or carrying the ball, unlike many of the subsequent players who used the crossover move. Hardaway's crossover was low, tight, and fast, much like Isiah Thomas and Archie Clark before him. 

The next speaker after Hardaway was Del Harris, who is 85 years old and a bit hobbled from back surgery (he had surgery on Tuesday and was able to stand and give a speech tonight!). It is great to see him honored by the Hall of Fame at a time when he is still able to attend the ceremony. I interviewed Harris 17 years ago when he was an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks. Harris' presenters were John Calipari, Nancy Lieberman, and Sidney Moncrief. Harris opened by saying, "This is a message of gratitude, and all the glory to God." Harris thanked many mentors, including Tom Nissalke, who helped Harris become a coach first in the ABA and then in the NBA. Harris noted that he served 12 full seasons as an NBA coach and that eight of his assistant coaches became NBA coaches while two other assistant coaches became NBA general managers. He said that he learned a lot from the Hall of Fame players he coached "with"--and he emphasized "with"--while making special mention of the late Moses Malone. Harris also gave special thanks to Dr. James Naismith, who said that the purpose of basketball is, in Harris's words, "developing the spirit, mind, and body, in that order." Harris added, "Sometimes we focus too much on the body." Harris said that during his first coaching job at a junior high school "I found Naismith's purpose to have meaning for me in my life...and I decided that I was meant to be a coach."

Hugh Evans' widow spoke on his behalf in a recorded message. Evans lived long enough to celebrate the announcement of his induction, but passed away earlier this year. The best tribute to Evans is that when he was assigned to do a game everyone--fans, players, coaches, fellow referees--knew that he would perform at the highest level with no favoritism. I wish that could be said about all referees, but it was definitely true of Evans, who very much deserves this honor. Evans' presenters were George Gervin and Reggie Miller, two players who Evans once said inspired him to keep improving as a referee.

Lou Hudson's daughter Adrienne spoke on his behalf in a recorded message, and she also appeared in person alongside her father's presenters Jamaal Wilkes and Spencer Haywood. In her recorded message, she described this as a bittersweet moment because her father is not alive to receive this great honor. She noted that her father has previously been inducted in multiple Halls of Fame but that induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was "an aspiration that he hoped to achieve in his lifetime." She provided some meaningful background not only about his basketball accomplishments (including leading Team USA to victory in the World University Games in 1965) but also his extensive involvement in his community and his devotion to his family.

Hudson played in the first of the two ABA-NBA All-Star Games. He made the All-Star team for six straight seasons (1969-74), and he averaged at least 21.9 ppg in each of those seasons. Hudson spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Hawks--two years in St. Louis, followed by nine in Atlanta--before playing for the Lakers for his final two seasons. He averaged 21.3 ppg in nine playoff campaigns, including a league-leading 29.7 ppg in the 1973 playoffs. Hudson's 20.2 ppg career regular season scoring average ranks 65th in ABA/NBA history; more than 5000 players have appeared in at least one ABA or NBA regular season game, but just 70 of those players averaged at least 20 ppg while playing at least 400 games or scoring at least 10,000 points, and the vast majority of those 70 who are eligible for induction have already been inducted. Hudson retired in 1979 and passed away in 2014. When he retired in 1979, Hudson ranked 15th in NBA history with 17,940 career regular season points. It is difficult to understand why he had to wait so long to be recognized by the Hall of Fame.

Larry Costello made the All-Star team six times and he played for Philadelphia's dominant 1967 championship team before coaching Milwaukee to the 1971 NBA championship--but he was not inducted as either a player or as a coach, but rather as a contributor. Costello passed away in 2001 at the age of 70, so his four daughters accepted the honor on his behalf and each one spoke during a brief recorded message. They stated that they learned from their father to work hard, never quit, and never seek credit for what you are doing, because if you are doing well then you will be recognized--which is a bit ironic, considering that Costello did very well, did not seek credit, and thus was not inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame until more than 20 years after he died. His daughters mentioned that this induction was an honor that meant a lot to him, and that they wished he had lived long enough to see this day but they are grateful that he is being acknowledged now. Costello's Hall of Famer presenters were Billy Cunningham, Wayne Embry, and Bobby Dandridge.

George Karl was inducted as an NBA coach, but it is worth noting that he not only played in the ABA but he proudly identifies himself as an "ABA guy" who strongly believes that the ABA players and teams do not receive enough credit. During his induction speech, Karl said, "There is a fraternity of guys who still love the ABA to this day, and I am one of those guys."

His Hall of Fame presenters were Bobby Jones, Gary Payton, and Roy Williams. Karl said that Jones and Bob McAdoo were the two most talented players he played with at North Carolina, and that Jones is the greatest winner he has ever been associated with during his basketball career; there are good reasons that I dubbed Jones "The Ultimate Team Player." 

Karl said that the Basketball Hall of Fame should consider inducting great assistant coaches, and he mentioned Tim Grgurich as a candidate. Karl credited North Carolina coach Dean Smith with providing the "blueprint" for his coaching philosophy of respecting the game, sharing the ball, and playing the right way. Karl also singled out Bill Guthridge for inspiring and motivating him during his playing days at North Carolina. Karl, a throat cancer survivor whose voice is raspy, declared that he wants to give back to the game that has given him and his family such a wonderful life.

Ginobili was the night's final speaker. He was presented by Tim Duncan. Ginobili began by saying, "For players like me, individual accomplishments are team honors. I am not here because I was super special. I am here because I was part of two of the most important teams of the 2000s, with the Spurs winning four NBA championships, and with my Argentine National Team winning gold in '04." Ginobili hastened to add that he treasured his time with all of his teams throughout his career, and that he savors the memories not only of the big wins but also of the losses and the camaraderie forged among teammates during all of those battles. Ginobili described how he started playing basketball for several hours a day as a six or seven year old, and how he made friends while also honing his skills. He talked about playing for the Argentine National Team before playing as a professional in Europe starting at the age of 18. Ginobili said that he was shocked to find out that the San Antonio Spurs had drafted him, and he noted that his draft night experience did not involve getting a hat with a team logo before shaking the commissioner's hand. Ginobili became emotional when he asked for the audience's indulgence while he speaks briefly to his family in Spanish. After he finished speaking in Spanish, Ginobili spoke to his young sons in English, declaring that the moment he cherishes most in his life is right now being here with them.

I covered Ginobili in person as a journalist on more than one occasion, including game three of the 2007 NBA Finals, and game four of the 2007 NBA Finals. In game four, Ginobili poured in a game-high 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, as his San Antonio Spurs swept LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ginobili does not focus on his individual honors and accomplishments, but he starred for the Argentine National Team and in Europe before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2002. He had the talent to be an NBA starter, but he accepted that it would be better for the team if he provided a spark off of the bench--unlike many NBA players who insist on being "the man" even if they are not fit for that role and even if assuming that role is detrimental to team success. Ginobili came off of the bench in 708 of his 1057 career regular season games and in 165 of his 218 career playoff games, but he still earned two All-Star selections and two All-NBA Third Team selections. He also won Sixth Man of the Year for the 2007-08 season. More significantly, he played a key role on four NBA championship teams (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), and he has the best individual winning percentage among NBA players who participated in at least 1000 regular season games.

Many people struggle to place Ginobili's career in proper context, and there is a tendency to overreact in one of two ways: one camp suggests that Ginobili was just as good as a Pantheon player like Kobe Bryant and that if Ginobili had wanted to he could have averaged 30 ppg in the NBA; the second camp counters that Ginobili averaged just 13.3 ppg during his regular season career and that he was a role player who gets attention because Tim Duncan served as a rising tide that lifted all boats. 

The reality is more nuanced than members of either camp are willing to admit. Ginobili was not a Pantheon level player; no matter how you crunch the per minute numbers or extrapolate his "efficiency" over a larger "usage rate" you cannot change the reality that averaging 13.3 ppg in 25.4 mpg playing mostly against bench players does not equal averaging 30 ppg while playing 38-40 mpg mostly against starting players and against teams who design their defenses primarily to limit your efficiency and productivity. 

Could Ginobili have been a career 20 ppg scorer had he been placed in a different role? Perhaps, but even if he could not have done that the second camp is selling him short by dismissing him as an overly hyped role player. What both camps fail to understand is that Ginobili willingly took the role that was best for his team and was also best for him: playing 35-40 mpg as a superstar player is something that very few people are equipped to do mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is selfless--but also shrewd--to acknowledge if you are not really cut out for that superstar role, and to instead focus on playing in a way that maximizes team success.

Players such as Gilbert Arenas, Carmelo Anthony, and James Harden spent most or all of their careers focused on being "the man"--and many media members rode their coattails to success by praising and overrating those guys--but anyone who understands what it takes to win and what it means to be great would rather have Manu Ginobili as a teammate than any of those guys. Ginobili is in many respects similar to Bobby Jones: both players deflected praise, did not care about individual statistics, and focused their efforts on what they had to do to help their teams to win. Arenas remains a clown to this day and he had a short prime, so hopefully we will be spared the indignity of ever hearing him deliver a Hall of Fame acceptance speech, but it is likely that Anthony and Harden will eventually be inducted--and their acceptance speeches will probably reflect how they think about themselves and the game, and thus those speeches will bear little resemblance to Ginobili's speech.

Articles About Recent Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies:

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Welcomes 15 New Members and Honors Bill Russell a Second Time (Class of 2021)

Kobe Bryant Headlines the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Class of 2020) 

The Basketball Hall of Fame Welcomes A Diverse Class of 12 Inductees (Class of 2019)

Thoughts and Observations About the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony (Class of 2018)

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:32 PM



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