The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, MA is at times underrated in my opinion. The Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities seem to get a lot more publicity. Granted, football is the most popular sport in the country but still.
Maybe it’s because the basketball induction activities happen in the off-season and don’t coincide with the start of the season like football does has something to do with it, maybe it doesn’t.
I always tune in and catch bits and pieces or sometimes all of the football enshrinement. Not so with basketball. I watched Michael Jordan (remember his speech?) when he went in back in 2009. I also watched my all time favorite player Dominique Wilkins when he was enshrined in 2006.
On Friday night I watched from start to finish and it was great. Spencer Haywood, Jo Jo White, Dikembe Mutombo, George Raveling, Dick Bavetta, Lindsay Gaze and Tom Heinsohn (again, this time as a coach).
They were awesome.
Of course I was drawn in this year by John Calipari and Louie Dampier. Kentucky legends past and present became Hall of Famers together.
Louie was before my time. He retired from the NBA when I was a year and a half old. But I had heard stories about how he could fill it up. My dad had told me about Louie. No matter how old or young you are as a UK fan you get educated on all of the great players, it doesn’t matter if you were old enough to see them play or not.
I had even written about him once. Yet it was still cool seeing him in the spotlight enjoying his moment and experiencing the greatest individual honor a basketball player can receive. He also called Dan Issel “the big dummy” not once but twice and got away with it!
Dampier played alongside Artis Gilmore and George “Iceman” Gervin and played for Hubie Brown. It was definitely good to see him get his moment in front of all the basketball world.
Coach Cal is Coach Cal, there isn’t much more that you can say about him. As big as his personality is he was soaking up every moment of his enshrinement just as much as every inductee that’s gone in before him.
For the detractors that say he doesn’t care about his players, all of the former players that made their way to Springfield would beg to differ. No doubt Tony Barbee, currently serving as an assistant coach on Cal’s staff, would beg to differ.
Watching the legion of former players take the stage as Cal concluded his speech was fun to see. Knowing that this year’s team was in attendance was a nice touch too. They are in the early stages of forging similar long-term relationships with Cal themselves.
Every phase of the ceremonies was wonderful, it was especially nice seeing Big Blue close out the show.