Every year, a new class is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame differs from many others in one important way: rather than focussing solely on those who play or coach in the best leagues, it recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the game of basketball. This year, 11 inductees became members of this exclusive club.
The most recognizable name in this year’s class is Tracy McGrady, an NBA legend. He made his name playing for both the Rockets and the Magic after starting with the Raptors. Seven consecutive All-Star appearances between 2001 and 2007 highlighted the dominance of this man. Along the way, McGrady also picked up a Most Improved Player award and was the NBA scoring champion on two occasions. Not a bad resume.
Nikos Galis epitomizes the benefits of a Hall of Fame focussing on contributions to basketball rather than just the NBA. After being a late draft pick to the Celtics in 1979, Galis failed to ever make the team. He returned to Greece where he won eight Greek League championships in nine years between 1983 and 1991. He also led the league in scoring for 12 consecutive years – unsurprisingly a record – and averaged over 33 points a game over the course of his entire career.
One of two posthumous inclusions to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year. Zack Clayton was a pioneer of African-American basketball. He played for several teams during the Black Fives Era, something which has already earned him a place in the Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame, and for some time appeared as a Harlem Globetrotter. Along the way, he also picked up a couple of World Championships of Professional Basketball, in 1939 and 1943 respectively.
The second posthumous inductee for the year, Jerry Krause was one of the more well-renowned executives in NBA history. He was General Manager of the Chicago Bulls for almost 20 years, including the relatively memorable ‘90s in which they won six championships. Twice, he was formally recognized for his contributions, being named NBA Executive of the Year in 1988 and 1996.
George McGinnis achieved the rare feat of starring in both the NBA and the ABA. Playing in the latter for much of the 70’s, he became a two-time champion with the Indiana Pacers, shared an MVP award with Julius Erving, and was a three-time ABA All-Star. After the ABA joined forces with the NBA, he continued to showcase his ability, adding three more All-Star appearances to his resume.
Robert Hughes is a giant of boys high school basketball, having won more games as a coach than any of his contemporaries. Over the course of 47 years, he coached his teams to five state championships and 35 district championships. Hughes boasts the extraordinary coaching figures of 1,333 wins and only 247 losses, at the rate of .844. Deservingly, he is already a member of two other Hall’s of Fame – that of Texas, and High School Basketball.
Bill Self has compiled an overall coaching record of 623-93 during 25 years of coaching college basketball and is still going strong. Since 2003, he has led the basketball program at the University of Kansas, and this is where he has done his best work. He has led them to 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, two Final Four appearances, and a National Championship in 2008. He has been recognized numerously as College Coach of the Year, Conference Coach of the Year, and overall Coach of the Year by various outlets throughout the last 15 years.
Perhaps the most laudable feat of Rebecca Lobo’s esteemed career was her participation in the 1995 UConn Huskies team, which went 35-0 for the year, during which she played a starring role. The very same year, she won a plethora of awards, including AP Female Athlete of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and was named in the First Team All-American. She also won an Olympic gold medal and played six seasons in the WNBA after its formulation in 1997. Following her career, Lobo became known for her insight as an ESPN analyst.
If you’ve heard of the Harlem Globetrotters, there’s a fair chance you’ve heard of Mannie Jackson. He was a star of the team in the ’60’s and later returned to serve as an owner and CEO of the team between 1993 and 2007. He oversaw the most successful period in the team’s history, with record attendances and revenue growth during his tenure.
Tom Jernstedt is a fine example of why recognizing basketball contributors, rather than just basketballers, is such a worthy exercise. His contribution to the sport revolved around the NCAA, for which he worked as an administrator from 1972 until 2010. He is credited as being a major reason the league is held in the esteem it is today and is deservedly an existing member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Muffet McGraw is about to enter her 31st season of Notre Dame women’s basketball team. Coaches don’t last over three decades without some level of success, and an 853-268 win-loss record is a testament to this. The highlight of her career was a National Championship in 2001, and she also won the AP Coach of the Year award in consecutive years, in 2013 and 2014.
These individuals have contributed to basketball in a variety of different ways. The common denominator between the 11 of them, however, is that they have had highly successful careers, be it as a player, a coach, or an administrator. Induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame is a prestigious thing and one which acknowledges the achievements of these people throughout their careers.
Who do you think deserves a place in the Naismith Hall of Fame in the coming years?
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