Well, after cracking open the sports section the other day, I was met with a story that told me it was breaking news. I’m always skeptical about this in the sports section; unless it’s news that Dick Vitale has declared war on Jupiter, I generally question just how breaking a sports story can be. That said, the story went on to tell me that the ten finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame had been decided. Among these were Bull and Piston great Dennis Rodman, Dream Team member Chris Mullin, and the guy who came up with the triangle offense, Tex Winter, among others.
Seeing as how we’re on the verge of “March Madness,” a disease that seems to only be cured with beer and chicken wings, I thought this story was somewhat timely.
Now, the Naismith Hall of Fame is without question the highest honor somebody associated with basketball can reach. And, unlike the Grammy’s where they just throw darts at a board to determine winners, the board is very picky about who they let in to the hall. I mean, they’re already agonizing about this batch of nominees and the actual inductees won't be announced until mid-August. If they were going to ask me, at that point, it seems like the beer and chicken wings would be gone; but, they have yet to ask me anything.
Seeing as how I have Google at my fingertips, though, I decided to take a look at some of the local talent who made it to that most prestigious of basketball awards.
The University of Louisville has had two inductees. Among these are powerhouse center Wes Unseld, who – after making a name for himself with the Cards going to the postseason three times – went on to play thirteen years with the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) winning awards in the league like Rookie of the Year and MVP. In 1988, the Hall saw fit to recognize Unseld’s tenacity.
The other Cardinal inductee is one that is probably an easy guess: the coach, Denny Crum. Born in California, Crum received a crash course in coaching from the legendary John Wooden before taking the reins at Louisville, where he led the team to six final four appearances and two national championships. To this day, there have only been three coaches that have led more teams to the final four. Recognizing his ability and work ethic, the hall inducted Denzil Crum in 1994.
On the blue side, the University of Kentucky has had an impressive five inductees into the hall. Among these, of course, is Coach Adolph Rupp. From Kansas, Rupp developed a series of teams that have not been rivaled since with winning four national championships and 27 SEC titles. It’s really no wonder why “The Baron of the Bluegrass” was inducted in 1969.
Then, in 1982 one of Rupp’s players, Frank Ramsey made his way to the hall. Ramsey made a name for himself at Kentucky leading the Wildcats to an NCAA championship in 1951. After college, Ramsey found himself again on a legendary team. This time, it was the Boston Celtics where he played alongside Bill Russell and Bob Cousy among others.
A few years earlier, Cliff Hagan was inducted. After a 1954 championship with UK, Hagan played with the St. Louis Hawks and the American Basketball Association’s Dallas Chaperalls. The former of which, Hagan led to an NBA championship in 1958. In 2008, a Wildcat known more for being a coach than a player was inducted in Pat Riley, a three time NBA coach of the year.
The fifth inductee was Dan Issel from 1993, who saw great success at two different Kentucky teams. The blue and white as well as the green and white of the ABA’s Kentucky Colonel’s, Louisville’s professional basketball team where Issel was one of the league standouts before it merged with the NBA and Issel left Kentucky for the Denver Nuggets.
Sadly, there’s no local connection with the current crop of all-stars, but it’s all too likely there will be a couple in the coming years.
Abrams, J. Hall of Fame Announces 12 Finalists. New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/sports/basketball/19nba.html?src=twrhp
Inductees. Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers-index/
Photo: D. Rose