Springfield, MA (Sports Network) - Reggie Miller, Ralph Sampson and Don Nelson
were among those enshrined as part of the 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame class.
Miller, a five-time NBA All-Star, Sampson, a three-time collegiate national
player of the year, and Nelson, the winningest coach in NBA history, joined
a class that also included Jamaal Wilkes, Katrina McClain, Hank Nichols and
the first women's pro basketball team, the All American Red Heads.
Miller was one of the greatest clutch scorers in NBA history, playing his
entire 17-season career with the Indiana Pacers and finishing as the
franchise's all-time leader with 25,279 points and 1,505 steals. The former
UCLA star ranks second on the NBA all-time list for three-point field goals
made with 2,560, and is ninth on the NBA career free-throw percentage list at
.888. He also has the most three-pointers made (320) in playoff history.
"Obviously basketball is a team game," Miller said, before giving all of his
former Pacer teammates in attendance a standing ovation.
"Donnie (Walsh), thank you for taking a gamble on a skinny kid with big ears,"
Miller said. "Playing in a small market for 18 years, you really got to know
your neighbors really well.
"People wish they could be in a house with the greatest of anything. I lived
across the hall from the greatest women's player," Miller said of his sister
Sampson was best-known for his collegiate career at the University of
Virginia in the early 1980s. A three-time Naismith Award winner and two-time
Wooden Award recipient, he helped Virginia to one Final Four appearance, then
gained fame in the NBA as one of the Rockets' Twin Towers -- along with Hakeem
Olajuwon -- during the club's run of success in the mid 1980s. He was the
NBA's top rookie in 1984 and the All-Star Game MVP in 1985.
"Words can't describe how I feel about being among the greats who have ever
played this game," Sampson said. "We, as older guys, need to help the younger
guys highly appreciate this game."
Nelson, who was a finalist for the fifth time, has more than 1,300 NBA
victories and is one of only two coaches to be named NBA Coach of the Year
three times. He spent over 40 years of his life as a player, coach and general
manager, winning five titles as a player with the Boston Celtics. The teams he
coached made 18 postseason appearances and amassed 75 playoff wins.
"Hopefully this will be the last tuxedo that I'll be wearing. I am going to
Maui. There is life after basketball," Nelson said.
Wilkes was a member of four NBA championship teams, first in 1975 with Golden
State and the Lakers in 1980, '82 and '85. After a stellar collegiate career
at UCLA, where he was a member of two national championship teams, Wilkes
won the 1975 NBA Rookie of the Year and finished his 12-year career with an
average of 17.7 points per game.
"Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), one of my bigger honors was playing alongside you, the
greatest scorer in the NBA," Wilkes, who played with Abdul-Jabbar as a member
of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1977-85, said.
McClain is one of the most decorated athletes in USA Basketball national team
history, winning Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1996, as well as Olympic
bronze in 1992. Before stepping onto the international stage, she was a two-
time All-America (1986, 1987) and the 1987 WBCA National Player of the Year at
the University of Georgia.
"I'm so humbled to be part of a great group of athletes," McClain said.
"Julius Erving was my role model, the epitome of basketball".
Nichols was a long-time official who has refereed six national championship
games and 10 Final Fours. After his officiating career, he became the national
coordinator of officials for the NCAA and was instrumental in the progression
of rules changes at the collegiate level.
"Heck, I'm not a referee anymore, I am going to wear my glasses now," Nichols
joked. "I am accepting this honor for everyone in a striped shirt. They are
the integrity of the game."
The All American Red Heads were known as the female version of the Harlem
Globetrotters and regularly played more than 200 games per season while
touring thousands of miles reaching 49 states, Canada and the Philippines from
1936 to 1986.
"To all of the men and women who were bold enough to challenge the status quo
and play basketball, this honor is shared with you," Tammy Harrison, the
daughter of late Red Heads coach Orwell Moore and player Lorene Moore, said.
"My dad was a great coach, but my mom was the star," she said.
Also enshrined were five directly-elected members who were announced in
February. They included Mel Daniels, voted in from the American
Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early
African-American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International
Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from
the Contributors Direct Election Committee.
The Sports Network