The Washington Post Sunday

Paul Pierce, Chris Webber and Bullets great Bob Dandridge among those inducted into Hall of Fame.

Bosh, Wallace, Kukoc and Dandridge are among those enshrined


The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrineme­nt ceremony returned home to Springfiel­d, Mass., on Saturday to welcome a deep class of inductees whose careers shaped all aspects of the sport.

After the 2020 ceremony was postponed and eventually relocated to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., many of basketball’s biggest names, including Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and Charles Barkley, converged on MassMutual Arena to welcome NBA stars Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Ben Wallace, Toni Kukoc and Bob Dandridge into the Hall of Fame. Also inducted were NBA coaches Bill Russell, Rick Adelman and Cotton Fitzsimmon­s; women’s stars Pearl Moore, Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson; WNBA executive Val Ackerman; NCAA coach Jay Wright; African American pioneer Clarence Jenkins; and scout Howard Garfinkel.

Webber, who opened the ceremony following Anthony Hamilton’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” in recognitio­n of the 20th anniversar­y of the 9/11 attacks, thanked Barkley and Isiah Thomas for steering his career. The University of Michigan “Fab Five” icon and five-time all-star hailed Barkley for changing the nature of the power forward position and opening the door for athletes to become commentato­rs and media figures in retirement.

Webber, a Detroit native, called Thomas his “guardian angel” who “protected me from the vultures” that encircled him when he rose to national prominence as a high school all-American. “That’s why I never had to take a penny from anyone,” said Webber, who admitted in a 2003 plea agreement to receiving $38,200 from booster Ed Martin, an amount he later repaid following a scandal that engulfed the Michigan program.

Pierce was presented by Kevin Garnett, his former teammate on the Boston Celtics’ 2008 title team. He was welcomed to the stage by loud cheers and fans who shouted his “Truth” nickname. The 10-time all-star opened his speech by thanking his mother, Lorraine.

“Your hard work, your dedication, your stubbornne­ss that made me the man I am today,” Pierce said. “I’d also like to apologize for burning down our house when I was 7 years old. I don’t remember ever apologizin­g for that. I guess God knew I had to repay you somehow, so I’m grateful to have made it to the league and got you a new one. Thank you, Mom.”

As the crowd chuckled, Pierce added: “That’s a true story. I was playing with matches. The next thing you know, I’m out in front and the house is coming down. All the kids in the neighborho­od called me an arsonist. I didn’t know what that was at the time.”

The brash Pierce then recited the names of the nine teams that passed on him in the 1998 draft.

“Thank you for passing on me and adding fuel to my fire,” said Pierce, who acknowledg­ed Celtics executive Danny Ainge, coach Doc Rivers and Garnett. “To this day I don’t understand how I slipped to No. 10. I was in shape. My shot was falling. I was running the line drills. But everything happens for a reason.”

Pierce also saluted Derrick and Tony Battie for caring for him after a 2000 stabbing at a Boston nightclub. “Thank you for saving my life,” he said. “I was stabbed 11 times, and they got me to the hospital. That woke me up. That helped me understand how precious life was.”

The 73-year-old Dandridge, a Richmond native who went to Norfolk State and won a title with the 1979 Washington Bullets, was presented by his former Milwaukee Bucks teammate Oscar Robertson. His speech paid tribute to multiple generation­s of his family — including his wife, whom he met on the campus of Norfolk State; his father, a railroad worker who “lifted 100-pound sacks of mail” on an overnight shift; and his grandmothe­r, who preached, “Be thy labor great or small, do it well or not at all.’ ”

“This verse still resonates with me on a daily basis,” said Dandridge, a two-time champion and four-time all-star. “Russell Williams, my seventh- or eighthgrad­e coach, never played me, not one minute. But he was the best coach I ever had because he taught me the fundamenta­ls of this game of basketball. My fundamenta­ls carried me for 13 years in the NBA when other folks didn’t know nothing about fundamenta­ls.”

Dandridge was elected from the veteran’s committee nearly 40 years after his 1982 retirement.

“I’ve had to wait a little while,” he said. “There’s been so much growth inside of me that I’m real grateful for the wait. I’ve had the chance to be a better father, better person. Some of the grudges I had against some of the guys I played against, all of them are gone.”

Wallace, an undersized 6-foot-9 center who went undrafted out of Virginia Union University, explained how childhood advice from his mother fueled his confidence and competitiv­eness during a career that saw him win a title with the 2004 Detroit Pistons and claim four defensive player of the year awards.

“Be strong. Be motivated. Stand tall,” Wallace said. “This is what my mama told me. Stand tall. Stick your chest out. Hold your head up. Now do it again . . . . I wasn’t welcome. I was too small. I couldn’t play the game the way they wanted me to play. Sounds like an uneven game to me. Put me on a level playing field and I’ll show you.”

Kukoc was joined onstage by Jordan, with whom he won three titles as a member of the 1990s Chicago Bulls. The Croatian legend, who was inducted as part of the Hall’s internatio­nal committee, thanked Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, executive Jerry Krause and coach Phil Jackson while quipping that Jordan and Scottie Pippen gave him an early taste of the NBA game.

“I would like to thank this gentleman here, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen for kicking my butt in the Barcelona Olympics,” Kukoc said, referring to his infamous run-in with the 1992 Dream Team. “They motivated me to work even harder to become an important part of the Chicago Bulls . . . . Our practices [in Chicago] at that time were harder than many games that we played.”

While Russell was initially inducted as a player in 1975 after winning 11 titles with the Boston Celtics, he earned his second enshrineme­nt in recognitio­n of his coaching career. The NBA’s first Black coach compiled a 341-290 record over eight seasons and led the Celtics to titles in 1968 and 1969 as a player-coach.

“[Russell] endured insults and vandalism but never stopped speaking up for what was right,” former president Barack Obama said in a taped message. “As tall as Bill Russell stands, his example and his legacy rise far, far higher.”

 ?? JESSICA HILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Chris Webber thanked Charles Barkley and Isiah Thomas in his speech at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrineme­nt.
JESSICA HILL/ASSOCIATED PRESS Chris Webber thanked Charles Barkley and Isiah Thomas in his speech at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrineme­nt.

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