Naismith Hall of Fame Inducts Its Greatest Class Ever

Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan's speech was the highlight of the evening.

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More Reactions to Jordan

Among others, here were a few more poignant reactions in the wake of Michael Jordan's polarizing acceptance speech Friday night.

Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm weighed in:

There was no revelation last night. This is who he is, who he’s always been. I’ve long thought that there are two types of competitiveness. There are those that seek to be the absolute best at what they do. They strive for greatness, for glory, to accomplish the most they possibly can. And there are others whose entire universe is built around destroying their opponent. There’s being the best, and there’s "being better than everyone else." And they are different, though the separation is subtle.  This is who Jordan is. It’s why he shrugged. It’s why he reveled in moments when he not only buried the last second game-winner, but did it in his defender’s face. It’s why the tongue wagged and he walked with more swagger than anyone. He loved beating people. So it’s no surprise that on his night, he chose to celebrate his career by shoving it in everyone’s face. Last night he put a clinic on Pat Riley, Byron Russell, John Starks, Isiah Thomas, and Jerry Krauss. "IN YOUR FACE, PEOPLE THAT ANGERED ME TWENTY YEARS AGO!"

The reason I have no problem with this is that the Hall isn’t about him as a person. It’s startling that the greatest player in league’s history is such a jackass, and not so awesome for all of the glorification of him as not only a player but as a cultural entity, but his play is honestly worthy of all that praise. He deserves his own room at the hall. And he deserves to be end his career in the public eye in whatever way he chooses. And he chose to end it by shoving it in people’s face and saying "Sucks to be you" to his kids. That’s just how the Greatest Player of All Time rolls. I’m not going to tell him differently, are you?

While relished in the opportunity to highlight the competitive zeal that fueled Jordan's ascent:

Jordan isn’t famous because he could dunk the ball, or drop 50 in a game. About 2.7% of all players who have appeared in the NBA all-time have scored 50 in a game. Michael Jordan ain’t no 2.7%, his percentage is so minuscule that it’s immeasurable.

Jordan is famous because he won. Won to the tune of six championships which easily could have been eight straight, and possibly more. Jordan won because of his competitive nature. And to remain competitive, Jordan wanted motivation, which in his words, he "desperately needed."

Think about that. The man admits to being ‘desperate’ for reasons to stay motivated, to maintain a competitive edge, a winning level. Don’t chide Jordan because he’s opened a window to his life that was previously unseen (or denied) by most, or blast him for mentioning all the instances along the way which made him a winner.  When Jordan asked "what don’t people know about me" in his speech, the answer should have been what their horse blinders of denial didn’t allow them to see.

I’m not here to defend Michael Jordan, and I’m not a Jordanaire apologist. I simply don’t want to be deprived of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ that helped create the man we celebrate with a Hall of Fame induction. And I’m glad I wasn’t.

And finally, the Washington Post's Michael Lee sums up the entire ceremony in less 140 characters:



Jordan's Speech was Petty, Ugly

I spent last night doubled over from food poisoning--today's blogging will be my flu game in Utah, thank you very much--so I wasn't sure if Michael Jordan's speech had really happened. But that's why God created Tivo and Adrian Wojnarowski. This morning I watched it again, and then saw Adrian Wojnarowski's eloquent takedown of the whole affair.

His words, from Yahoo! Sports:

Jordan didn’t hurt his image with the NBA community, as much as he reminded them of it. "That’s who Michael is," one high-ranking team executive said. "It wasn’t like he was out of character. There’s no one else who could’ve gotten away with what he did tonight. But it was Michael, and everyone just goes along."

Jordan wandered through an unfocused and uninspired speech at Symphony Hall, disparaging people who had little to do with his career, like Jeff Van Gundy and Bryon Russell. He ignored people who had so much to do with it, like his personal trainer, Tim Grover. This had been a moving and inspirational night for the NBA – one of its best ceremonies ever – and five minutes into Jordan’s speech it began to spiral into something else. Something unworthy of Jordan’s stature, something beneath him. [...]

Whatever, Michael. Everyone gets it. Truth be told, everyone got it years ago, but somehow he thinks this is a cleansing exercise. When basketball wanted to celebrate Jordan as the greatest player ever, wanted to honor him for changing basketball everywhere, he was petty and punitive. Yes, there was some wink-wink teasing with his beloved Dean Smith, but make no mistake: Jordan revealed himself to be strangely bitter.

The entire article is great, and it's a point well taken. Jordan had the chance to enter immortality with grace and gratitude, and instead showed himself to be classless and callous. There will be plenty of default reviews of today's speech that praise his "playful" humor and cite his tears as the ultimate symbol of his love for the game. But make no mistake: despite the tears, Jordan remains a man with scores to settle, and last night he chose the most inappropriate forum possible.

And then he closed with eloquent words about the game of basketball:

The game of basketball has been everything to me. My refuge, my place I've always gone to find comfort and peace. it's been a source of intense pain, and a source of most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. ... It's been a relationship that's evolved over time, and has given me the greatest respect and love for the game. It's provided me with a platform to share my passions with millions, in a way I neither expected, nor could have imagined, in my career.

I hope that it's given the millions of people that I've touched, the optimism and desire to achieve their goals through hard work, perseverance, and positive attitude. ... One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Oh don't laugh. Don't laugh. Because limits, like fears, are often an illusion.

Still, however dignified, his closing seems like such a dramatic departure from the tone and themes of the rest of his speech, you have to wonder: did Jordan even write that last part?

As a player and even in retirement, Jordan has spent most of his life insulated from criticism, and presented for public consumption with the benefit of a corporate-assisted sheen. Perhaps this was just the latest example of corporate sponsors burnishing a deeply flawed character into something we can all romanticize? I think so.

Maybe Nike didn't write the entire "basketball" section, but they definitely wrote that final line.

And it's sad; the most romantic notions of what basketball should and can be were all encapsulated in the video that preceded Jordan's induction speech. But it goes back to what I said on Thursday: his final home game with the Wizards featured a similarly spellbinding highlight video, and one that literally made my eyes water. Then the lights came on, and Jordan arrogantly refused to address a crowd of Wizards fans hoping for just the slightest bit of gratitude. To feel like they played some tiny role in his towering NBA mythology. But he gave us nothing.

I didn't realize it then, but in hindsight the moment makes so much sense: Jordan the player and Jordan the myth were both impossibly perfect. But when the lights come on, there's only Jordan the man. And unfortunately for the fans hoping to remember Jordan's poetic greatness and dominance on the basketball court, last night John Stockton and David Robinson made Jordan the man look hopelessly inferior.

And finally, as an addendum, some phenomenal tweeting from last night:








Vivian Stringer Gives Speech Nearly as Touching as it Is Long

NCAA women's basketball coach Vivian Stringer is being inducted into the Hall tonight, and the show organizers allowed plenty of time for her to speak. She certainly took advantage of the opportunity, speaking for over fifteen minutes.

Stringer's story is inspirational, and the time allotted to her was well deserved. The only somewhat odd moment came toward the very end, at which point she said that her 2007 Rutgers team, which reached the national championship game, was her worst team. The crowd's murmuring was audible, but ultimately, they gave her an impressive ovation when she was finished.


Tribute Paid to Daly, Kerr

Tonight's ceremony allowed for some time to pay tribute to two basketball legends that passed away this year. Red Kerr, the voice of the Chicago Bulls for over thirty years, and Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly were honored with video presentations.


Emotional Stockton Gives Funny, Touching Speech

Former Jazz point guard John Stockton gave us a rare glimpse into his light-hearted side. One of the NBA's greatest passers, Stockton had no problem dishing out the jokes (what, you thought we could resist going there?) He began by thanking those that accompanied him at the ceremony, stating that he thought they probably came to see Michael Jordan.  Regarding His Airness, Stockton said, "he makes one big shot, and everyone thinks he's so cool." He also made light of his big feet and short shorts - essentials for any ceremony honoring Stockton.

Stockton showed some very rare emotion, breaking into tears when thanking his father and his late mother. He also gave his regards to his wife and six children, all of whom attended the ceremony.

Seeing Robinson, Stockton, and Jordan being inducted into the Hall of Fame is making me feel old.


Robinson Joined on Stage by George Gervin, Larry Brown

David "The Admiral" Robinson was the first player to speak at tonight's Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Robinson gave an impromptu speech, and spoke very highly of those that paved the way for his basketball career - including Tim Duncan, whom Robinson said he prayed for when the Spurs had the opportunity to draft. He was joined on stage by former Spur and Hall of Famer George Gervin and Larry Brown, the Hall of Fame coach. 

The Admiral was always known as an incredibly religious man, and vocalized his faith to conclude the speech. Robinson finished by referencing a Bible passage, and giving his blessing to the crowd.


SLC Dunk Remembers John Stockton

SB Nation blog SLC Dunk looks back on how a skinny guard from Gonzaga came to define a franchise. Definitely worth a read. From SLC Dunk:

Stockton impressed from the get-go. He was a hit in training camp and in the pre-season. He played in all 82 games his first season, starting 5 of those when Green couldn't go. He would continue the next three seasons as the backup PG. But in 1988, Rickey Green was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the expansion draft and the reins to the team were turned over to Stockton.

Immediately he jumped to be among the elite players in the league. In his first season as a starter, Stockton led the league in assists with 1,128. That would start a run of five straight seasons of 1,100+ assists. The 1,100 assist mark has only been reached by one other player in NBA history, Isiah Thomas, and that was just one time. Those 5 years produced 5,670 assists. That alone would have put him at #33 on the all-time list. He would lead the league in assists for 9 straight years, a league record.
If players were given championships because they deserved it, Stockton and the Jazz would have gone on to win back-to-back titles. We won't get into the controversy from those finals appearances against the Bulls and all the shoulda/coulda talk. Stockton wouldn't make any excuses either.
For the last 6 years of his career he started playing about 5-6 minutes less per game to keep his legs fresh. His number dropped a bit, but his Per 36 and other stats showed that he didn't really have a drop-off. Meaning at age 40, he was still putting up 10 assists per game Per 36, the same as when he entered the league.

Besides his records, clutch shooting, and being one of the smartest players in the league, Stockton will probably be remembered by most as one of the toughest, most durable players ever. His longevity came despite setting the most tenacious picks in the league every night. Some would call him dirty. That's what you have to do when you have no other explanation as to why you keep getting your lunch handed to you by a guy that is 6" shorter than you and at least 50 pounds lighter.

Read the whole thing.


But What About Wizards Fans?

SB Nation's Bullets Forever explains why Wizards fans might not feel all warm and fuzzy about Michael Jordan being inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame:

How do I feel about this?  Jordan the player was absolutely the best that ever lived.  He was the most electrifying player and the most competitive player this game has ever seen (or will see).  Friends tease me at how much I watch old Jordan games when he was in Chicago in my spare time.  He was absolutely stunning.

But I also can't help but feel bitter about his time in DC, a tenure dominated by Jordan often putting his own interests above the good of the team.  Maybe he meant well, maybe he didn't, but it's tough to deny that Jordan did not elevate the Wizards to a level that anyone should be proud of.  Two straight 37-win seasons are a failure, even for the Wizards.


My Complicated History with Mike

With Michael Jordan set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame tomorrow, the tributes are pouring in from all sides. As a Wizards fan, my feelings on Jordan are more complicated than the romanticizing allows for, but as a basketball fan, I could read about Jordan the basketball player all day long. There, he was perfect.

With that in mind, if anyone's interested in whiling away the waning hours of the day with some fantastic Jordan tributes, look no further.

Rick Telander recounts an encounter with Jordan in 1995, and explains:

Jordan had a respect for the past, for tradition, that transcended his often smart-assed ways. When he kissed the Bull at center court before the Stadium was demolished, he meant it. When he said he liked Gleason, because the World War II vet was ''old-school and Chicago,'' he meant it. [...]

''I wish I could show you a film of a dunk I had in Milwaukee,'' he said excitedly. ''It's in slow-motion, and it looks like I'm taking off, like somebody put wings on me. I get chills when I see it.''

We all did. All the time.

Our own Eammonn Brennan, who apparently works for every website on the internet, remembers the good stuff:

At this point, all that really matters to Bulls fans about Michael Jordan -- or all that should matter, anyway -- is what he did on the court for his 15 years in a Chicago Bulls uniform. All you need to know is what you can see. All the memories, the decade of not just dominance but of some sort of God-like jaw-dropping iron-will to never lose, that, in turn, led to even more dominance. All of this was punctuated by the sort of grace and athletic beauty never seen in the game of basketball before ... that's what matters. The Michael Jordan that gave people joy. That's the Michael Jordan we choose to remember.

Robbi Pickeral of the Charlotte Observer corrects a widely held misconception: Michael Jordan wasn't cut from the Varsity his sophomore year in high school (umm.. WHAT?):

Ruby Sutton has a distinct pet peeve when it comes to the subject of her former pupil, Michael Jordan: the oft-told story of how he was “cut” from the Laney High varsity basketball team as a sophomore, spurring him to greatness.

“Back then, (most) 10th-graders played JV; that's just the way it was. Nobody ever ‘cut' Michael Jordan,” Sutton, who still teaches physical education, said this month, shaking her head as she retold the story for at least the 100th time.

“Him not making the varsity that year was not his motivator – he was motivated well before that. He just always wanted to be the best.”

David Stern offers a eulogy of his own to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Because of his presence at a particular time in the history of our league, the multiple championships of the Bulls, his extraordinary competitiveness, his athletic prowess and marketability, Michael stands at a special place in the development of the NBA as a global sport,'' Stern said. ''After all of the other accolades come in, all well-deserved, what stands out especially meaningful to me is the fact the league grew tremendously on a global basis when Michael and the Bulls were coming into prominence.

'[What impresses me about] the way Michael got to be great was the fact he had to overcome losses to other teams like Boston or Cleveland or Detroit that had dominated the Bulls. So it isn't as though he stepped fully grown onto the NBA stage. He grew into his greatness, and his journey was fascinating to watch. Stars on other teams were shining brightly. But Michael, after those [six] championships [in eight years], shone the brightest of all.

Finally, I mentioned this in commentary, but True Hoop examines Michael Jordan in full, and it's excellent:

He saw just about everything as an excuse to work harder. He didn't make his varsity team ... so he worked harder. He didn't make the playoffs, so he worked harder. He couldn't beat the Pistons, so more work. He chafed in the triangle. He missed shots. He made mistakes. He lost athleticism. 

But always, always, always, he was a relentless competitor. 

We saw that maybe most of all in his career bookend as a Washington Wizard. Against all better judgment, and in defiance of the best advice about how to handle his balky knees, he forced himself out there night after night, not worrying so much about what it would do to his body, his image, or anything else.

...And that's where I come in. The Wizards. My favorite team in the world. Michael Jordan was forced upon me when I was a freshman in high school. It sounds kind of silly to say that "the greatest player of all time" was forced upon me, but that's how it felt at the time.

When he took over the team as president of basketball operations, I was legitimately excited. He lent a sense of nobility to a franchise that, in my lifetime at least, had been a running joke. Suddenly, we had a legend pulling the strings for us, and whenever he'd show up for games, the entire crowd would be buzzing. Wizards and Bullets crowds rarely "buzzed" in his absence.

That said, hindsight has taught me that no, no matter how famous your GM is, it's not really acceptable for him to show up to 20% of your team's games. Michael Jordan was a dickhead. I learned as much as his tenure unfolded, and when he left, his laissez-faire management philosophy was revealed for what it really was: he just didn't care to invest himself more than he had to. Both here and in Charlotte that's been borne out to be a failed strategy.

And then there was the comeback. We never asked for that. I didn't want any part of a washed up superstar; that just made it impossible to sneak up to the front row. And then, of course, he set back the franchise five years: traded Richard Hamilton, decimated Kwame Brown's self-worth (judging Kwame is unfair unless you consider that his idol would verbally berate on a daily basis), and signed a bunch of stop-gap veterans in hopes of stealing the 8th playoff spot. Last season the Wizards played truly putrid basketball, but at least it was fun sometimes.

In Jordan we got a player who retained his lofty aspirations, but no longer had the athleticism to will his team to achieve them. We would walk and talk like a championship team, with Jordan our superstar, except the execution was completely absent, because none of the necessary development had taken place organically, and Jordan was just plain old. Instead, he spent most of the time pissed off and blaming anyone but himself, and forced everyone to treat things as if the Wizards were a championship playing mediocre basketball. They weren't; they were a mediocre team playing mediocre basketball. Jordan refused to accept that. Like I said, a dickhead.

For an unbiased look at his time in D.C., read some of the excellent Jordan coverage from the Washington City Paper--the only outlet that could cover him fairly, without fear of jeopardizing access. On his last night in D.C., after he'd been fired, Jordan went out to a local nightclub:

Salud. Another round. Luke, a tall no-nonsense waiter, is Spank's best, the one always deputized to fetch Jordan's entourage all their comped beverages. He's waited on Jordan, by his estimation, 30 to 40 times in the past three years, and, he says, never gotten a tip. This night, as on every night, Luke was working for Jordan, for $1.88 per hour. (Jordan could not be reached for comment on his nightlife activities.)

Luke says he's always had trouble relating to Jordan on a personal level. But with each Cape Codder that night, Jordan came closer to resembling just a guy who had lost his job.

The lights came on at 2 a.m. The diplomat kids looked that much more desperate, the fake breasts looked that much more fake, and Jordan looked that much more hammered. "I've never seen him more drunk in my life," Luke says. "He normally stays here 20 minutes to an hour. But he stayed 'til closing. That never happens. And he still didn't tip me."

None of which is to denigrate him as basketball player; his legacy there is beyond reproach. Which brings me to his final home game as an NBA basketball player. It happened with the Wizards, and we were playing the Knicks. I don't remember who won or lost, but I remember what happened after the game.

The Wizards showed a 5 minute highlight reel that was 90% Michael Jordan on the Bulls. No lurching post-up game, dominating the ball for ten seconds, before he'd invariably settle for an 18-foot fall away on the baseline; this was the Michael Jordan. 90% percent of the highlights came from his time on the Bulls, and his mastery of the game was on full display. The stadium lights were dim, and when they came back on, I was crying a little bit. It was that special.

And then Wizards' owner Abe Pollin and Michael Jordan met at center court, where Pollin presented a large charitable donation on Michael's behalf. Pollin took the microphone and spoke to the crowd, thanking Michael for all his contributions to the team, and his hard work in building the franchise. Then, we figured, Michael would take the microphone and thank us, too, for supporting him with sold out games and undying affection. Instead, he waved to the crowd, bowed his head, and left the court without saying a word.

And that's what Michael Jordan will always mean to me: a player that was so good he could literally make you cry, but up close and in the flesh, a pretty cold-hearted guy. Michael Jordan may have been the greatest player of all time, but as a Wizards fan, I'll take Gilbert Arenas any day.


Barkley, Thompson Also to Present

More surprising news about the presenters for this year's HOF inductees. The Deseret News reports:

Sloan asked Charles Barkley — who always had a fun rivalry with the Jazz during his career with the Sixers, Suns and Rockets — to introduce him at Friday night's event.
Another surprise selection: Michael Jordan picked North Carolina State product David Thompson — over his North Carolina coach, Dean Smith.

Stockton and...Thomas?

Hoops Hype tweets:

WTF news of the day: John Stockton picks isiah Thomas to present him at Friday's Hall of Fame ceremony.

HOF inductees must pick current members to present them during the ceremony, so Stockton could not pick his longtime running mate Karl Malone (who will be eligible for induction himself next year). Still, the choice of Isiah Thomas is...puzzling. Sure, Thomas was a contemporary HOF point guard, but isn't inviting the guy with the reverse Midas touch just inviting disaster?


Best HOF Class Ever?

Dust off your favorite John Tesh jingle - it's time for some '90s NBA nostalgia! While a certain number 23 has stolen the headlines, the undercards in this year's Basketball Hall of Fame class are not so shabby themselves. With David Robinson and John Stockton (along with Jerry Sloan and women's coach Vivian Stringer) joining his Airness in Springfield for the induction on Friday, September 11th, it's fair to ask: is this the best basketball Hall of Fame class ever?

Consider - John Stockton is the all-time NBA career leader in assists and steals; David Robinson is a former MVP and two-time champion; Jerry Sloan was a former All-Star in the Association himself before going on to coaching the pick and roll to perfection in Utah for the last twenty years; Vivian Stringer is the third-winningest coach in women's NCAA history, and is the first coach to take three different women's programs to the Final Four. And we haven't even gotten to this guy yet. 

So what would Jordan say? I'm guessing he'd be speechless.


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