Eleven new inductees join the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

By Robert Kunz

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2017, which included 11 individuals, at its enshrinement weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts Sept. 7-9. All nine living members were in attendance.

Rebecca Lobo (left) and Tracy McGrady (right) at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. (Robert Kunz photos)

Honored in the Class of 2017 were Nick Galis (International player), Robert Hughes (coach), Mannie Jackson (contributor), Tom Jernstedt (contributor), Rebecca Lobo (contributor), George McGinnis (player), Muffet McGraw (coach), Tracy McGrady (player), and Bill Self (coach). Honored posthumously were Zack Clayton (player) and Jerry Krause (contributor).

Maybe most recognizable in this year’s class was Tracy McGrady. McGrady was a two-time NBA scoring champion and seven-time All-Star who was honored in his first year of eligibility. He averaged more than 15 points per game for 10 straight seasons while playing for the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, and Houston Rockets. His most productive season was 2002-03 when he averaged 32.1 points per game for the Magic. McGrady was a high school McDonald’s All-American who skipped college to enter the NBA in 1997.

George McGinnis, the other ex-NBA player (and ex-ABA Player) from this year’s class, waited a long time for enshrinement. McGinnis was elected by the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee.

Before his professional career, McGinnis led George Washington High School to an undefeated season and an Indiana state basketball championship in 1969. He was later named an All-American at the University of Indiana. McGinnis selected a professional path in the ABA after college and won two ABA championships with the Indiana Pacers under Hall of Fame coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, and alongside Hall of Fame players Roger Brown and Mel Daniels.

McGinnis averaged more than 25 points per game in three seasons from 1972 to 1975 and was named co-MVP in 1975 with Hall of Famer Julius Erving.

After four seasons and three ABA All-Star selections, McGinnis signed a 6-year, $3 million contract with the Philadelphia Sixers of the NBA. He averaged more than 20 points per game in his first four seasons in the NBA and was named to three NBA All Star teams. McGinnis’ No. 30 jersey was retired by the Indiana Pacers, and he was named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. He and his 1968-69 team are ranked among the greatest all-time in Indiana basketball history.

In his acceptance speech McGinnis told the story about how his father did not get to see him play in high school very often since he was constantly working. But one game that he did attend was a 1969 Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Game in which McGinnis finished with 53 points and 31 rebounds.

“He told me he how proud he was of me, one of the few times he ever told me that, and that was one of the best feelings I ever had,” McGinnis said. Tragically, McGinnis lost his father to a construction accident just nine days after that game.

Nick Galis was the inductee selected from the International Committee, and the third player inducted as part of the Class of 2017. Galis was born in the United States, starred for Seton Hall in college, and was ranked third in scoring in the NCAA in his senior year.

He entered the 1979 NBA Draft, and was drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Celtics the same year the Celtics drafted Larry Bird. An injury prior to the 1979-80 season resulted in the Celtics not signing Galis. However, Galis found a home in Greece where his family was originally from. By the end of his career he was widely regarded as the greatest player in Greek basketball history. He was known as “The Greek God” or the Michael Jordan of Greek basketball.

Galis led his team to eight Greek League championships. He led the Greece A-1 League in scoring a record 12 straight seasons, won four MVP awards, and averaged 33.4 points per game over his career. He led the league in scoring for an entire decade.
In Galis’ enshrinement introduction, it was stated that Hall of Fame Celtic Coach Red Auerbach was quoted as saying “not signing Nikos Galis was the biggest mistake in his career.”

I listened to a long conversation between Galis and Bob McAdoo, and Galis said that he had not been back to the United States in 25 years. Prior to enshrinement there were probably not too many signatures of Galis to be found here in the States. Collectors might be wise to pick one up while they can. Galis was a great signer for the first two days at the Hall of Fame weekend.

Bill Self has guided Kansas to 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season championships and 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances. Self captured the 2008 National Championship, and is one of only six coaches in NCAA history to lead three different teams (Tulsa, Illinois, Kansas) to the NCAA Elite Eight. Self has topped 30 wins in nine different seasons.

During his years at Kansas, Self has coached a number of High School McDonald’s All-Americans including Mario Chalmers, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden Jr., Josh Jackson, and 2017 selection Billy Preston.

An estimated 60 ex-players or Kansas alumni including Andrew Wiggins, Danny Manning, Cheick Diallo, Mario Chalmers, and Frank Mason attended the Sept. 8 ceremony to honor Self.

Ann “Muffet” McGraw has gained similar honors on the NCAA women’s side. McGraw has led Notre Dame to 24 NCAA appearances (including 22 straight since the 1995-96 season). McGraw has coached Notre Dame to seven Final Fours, a Sweet Sixteen spot in each of the past eight seasons, and a National Championship in 2001. She is one of only four coaches in NCAA Division I history with 800 wins, seven Final Four appearances, and to coach in five NCAA championship games. McGraw should also soon make an elite list of only six major college women’s coaches with 900 wins.

Signed mini-ball collection of the career coaching leaders in boy’s and girl’s high school basketball, and men’s and women’s NCAA basketball. All four top winningest of all-time at these levels.

On the high school level, no boys basketball coach has won more games than Robert Hughes. Hughes coached high school basketball in Texas for 47 years and compiled 1,333 wins and a .844 winning percentage. Hughes did not have a losing season from 1958 until 1999. He won five state championships and was named the West team coach for the 2001 McDonald’s All-America Game.

Hughes was also honored with a Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been previously inducted into the Texas Basketball Hall of Fame and High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Hughes was the winningest coach in high school basketball history until Granbury High School women’s coach Leta Andrews overtook him.

Hughes retired in 2005 and is now 89 years old.

At Thursday’s press conference, Hughes told fans and reporters, “I’m here, but I keep thinking, ‘Why did it take so dang long?”

Note that Leta Andrews with 1,416 wins is still waiting for that call from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Like Hughes, both had been finalists on multiple occasions.
Rebecca Lobo was enshrined as a contributor for her achievements that paved the way to the formation of the WNBA and the expansion of women’s basketball. Lobo was a member of the 1995 undefeated and NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies, a 1996 Olympic gold medal winner, and a member of the New York Liberty at the inception of the WNBA. She and fellow Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes were the first players to sign contracts to the WNBA.

During Lobo’s acceptance speech she joked upon hearing the news of her induction, that she texted her husband, “You will be sharing a bed with a Hall of Famer tonight.” Her husband’s response was “Great! Larry Bird?” Bird, who was in the audience, seemed to enjoy the joke.

Mannie Jackson played for the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1960s, and later purchased the franchise in 1993. Jackson became the first African-American majority owner of such a major sports team. As CEO, Jackson grew back the popularity of the Globetrotters.

Jackson also served as Chairman of the Board for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and each year the Human Spirit Award for philanthropic work in given in his name.

Tom Jernstedt has been called the father of the Final Four. He worked for the NCAA for 38 years, and has served as president and vice president of USA Basketball. Jernstedt was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Honored post-humorously were Jerry Krause, general manager and executive vice president of the Chicago Bulls in the Jordan era, and Zack Clayton, recognized as one of the greatest pioneering players in the 1930s and 1940s. Krause was twice named NBA Executive of the Year. Clayton starred for several all-black teams including the Philadelphia Panthers, the Chicago Crusaders, the Harlem Globetrotters and the New York Rens. Clayton passed away in 1997, while Jerry Krause passed earlier this year just a few weeks before his induction was announced.

Returning Hall of Famers & guests

Over the course of the three-day enshrinement celebration, 39 returning Hall of Famers and a number of guests participated in events. Some of the returnees included Alex English, Rick Barry, Artis Gilmore, Theresa Edwards, Sheryl Swoopes, Dan Issel, Earl Monroe, and Isiah Thomas.

Following are a few of the guests and Hall of Famers who attended to honor of the class of 2017:

Dwyane Wade was one of three 2017 recipients of the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award. While Wade only attended the Thursday Night Award Ceremony, he did sign two dozen autographs for fans as he entered and exited the event. I had heard he was a good signer for such events, and those stories proved true as a majority of the people waiting for him were rewarded with a signature.

Geno Auriemma was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, and despite living fairly close in Connecticut, I just have not seen Auriemma in some time. I kept thinking he would attend the events that are held at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (especially as Geno’s Pub is an on-site restaurant at the casino complex). So this year I was very happy to learn Auriemma was going to be a presenter for Lobo.

Over the course of the three days, I was able to get Auriemma to sign a mini-basketball, a USA basketball jersey that already had Pat Summit on it, a 900 win ticket, and a 100th consecutive win ticket. I found Auriemma very pleasant, and I was really pleased to finally get these items signed.

Bob McAdoo was one returning Hall of Famer who had not come back in some time. It is always nice to see a returning member that has not been back to Springfield in a number of years, but as the older Hall of Famers have passed away, this is more rare.

So it was great to have McAdoo there to honor Galis.

McAdoo did sign on at least one occasion for fans, but I really spent a lot of time on both Friday and Saturday trying to see him, but I never did. Luckily I have a couple of key items in my collection that I recently had signed by McAdoo at a show in Batavia, New York.

Bob Cousy and Larry Bird were both present; however, Cousy only attended the Thursday night event and not many fans saw him. He likely drove in and drove out of the parking area under the Hall of Fame, so there was really no chance to ever ask for a signature. Bird would take a picture with fans, but refused any and all (young and old) autograph requests. Some years Bird may sign two or three, but this year I did not see or hear of him signing even one.

Bernard King had an interesting offer for fans. If you would promise to go out and buy his book that comes out in November, he would sign an item for you. Well, I made that promise. He also promised he would sign the book next year, so on a few promises you would get two autographs for the price of one book. King’s book is titled “Game Face: A Lifetime of Hard-Earned Lessons On and Off the Basketball Court.”

Many of the Hall of Famers made an effort to sign some autographs for fans, but many just once during the weekend. So it was just luck if you were present at that exact time and place. I found that Artis Gilmore, Theresa Edwards, Alex English and Spencer Heywood followed this rule. But others like Earl Monroe and Isiah Thomas were even more elusive. Members of the Class of 2017 were great signers. All but McGrady were fairly easy to get one or two from. McGrady did sign a few times, but only if there was a very small crowd present. I did see him twice when there were around 10 to 12 collectors present and he did not stop, but a couple of times when there was only 5 or 6 waiting, he would seem to find the time and sign one a piece.

Why is Gregg Popovich not in Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame?

I have heard for a few years now, “Why is Gregg Popovich not in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame?” Many blame this oversight on the Hall of Fame or the process. It is hard to understand, why not with such an accomplished career. Except that Popovich has requested not to be nominated.

A few years ago, he did not want to be nominated while Tim Duncan was playing. Lately, it sounds like his preference is not to be honored until after he retires. I hope he changes his mind. The Hall could really use his star power over the next three years.

This year’s attendance at the ceremony was the smallest I had ever seen.

Maybe if enough fans flood the Spurs offices and the Hall of Fame with nomination form requests, he would give into the will of the fans. A completed nomination form procured from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (BHOF) must be submitted to the president and CEO of the Hall of Fame by Oct. 31.

Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan was a similar case in that he made it clear he did not want the spotlight on him rather than his team but finally gave in to be enshrined with John Stockton in 2009. So I guess we should not look for a nod from Popovich until 2021 at the earliest.

Panini Autograph Session

A 2017 Hall of Fame Enshrinement program signed by all nine living members.

Panini sponsored an autograph session with members of the Class of 2017. Now in its fourth year, the Panini session has developed into a signing that first featured a few keys members of the current class and a few returning Hall of Famers to an event solely featuring the class of the current year.

The event price was $175 and allowed the ticket holder to obtain one autograph of each of the class members in attendance. Unlike last year when Allen Iverson did not arrive in Springfield in time for this paid event, this year featured all nine living members. The Hall sold only 80 to 90 of the possible 200 tickets to this event. I hope the low ticket sales do not mean a cancellation of this event.

Panini each year creates a collectible sheet for this event. A majority of the collectors choose to bring their own items to get signed, but there were also a small percentage of those in line that picked the Panini sheet to get signed.

Panini also created a trading card set that featured the Class of 2017. Unfortunately, like some years, Panini did not hand out this card set for those who purchased an autograph session ticket. The set was made available at only the Thursday night Awards Dinner and Ceremony.

Ceremony and Presenters

A 2017 Hall of Fame Enshrinement program signed by all nine living members.

Each year some of the biggest names to attend the enshrinement ceremony are the presenters. Each class member of the new class can select from one to many past honorees. This year’s list of presenters and who they represented were as follows:

Zack Clayton, presenter: Earl Monroe
Nick Galis, presenter: Bob McAdoo
Robert Hughes, presenter: Sheryl Swoopes
Mannie Jackson, presenters: Jerry Colangelo, Lynette Woodard, Russ Granik
Tom Jernstedt, presenters: John Havlicek, Ann Meyers, Geno Auriemma
Jerry Krause, presenter: Jerry Reinsdorf
Rebecca Lobo, presenter: Geno Auriemma
George McGinnis, presenters: Artis Gilmore, Reggie Miller, Bobby Leonard, Spencer Haywood
Muffet McGraw, presenter: Ann Meyers
Tracy McGrady, presenter: Isiah Thomas
Bill Self, presenter: Larry Brown

Outlook for 2018 and beyond

Looking ahead, in the next few years, finalists should include Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Becky Hammon.

In 2019, the Hall of Fame will mark its 60th anniversary. Nothing special was done for the 50th anniversary, as that year was already huge with the enshrinement of Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and Stockton. The Hall of Fame is working on commemorative coins featuring the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 60th anniversary celebration.

Robert Kunz is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at lesctag@yahoo.com.

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