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Wilkens, Others To Be Honored In Seattle
Leonard Randolph “Lenny” Wilkens was born on October 28, 1937 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was African American and his mother Irish. He was raised in the Roman Catholic Church.
Wilkens is a retired professional basketball player and former coach in the NBA, as well as the league’s career leader in coaching win-loss totals. He was inducted twice into the Basketball Hall of Fame, first in 1989 as a player and then later as a coach in 1998.
In November 2006, Wilkens was hired as vice chairman of the Seattle SuperSonics ownership group and in April 2007 named the Sonics’ President of Basketball Operations.
He later resigned from the Sonics organization. Wilkens currently is seen on Northwest FSN Studio as a College Hoops analyst and occasionally appears on Northwest College Hoops on game nights.
At Boys High School in New York, Wilkens was a basketball teammate of longtime Major League Baseball star Tommy Davis. Wilkens was a two-time All American (1959 and 1960) at Providence College.
He led the team to their first NIT appearance in 1959, and to the NIT finals in 1960. When he graduated, with 193 points, Wilkens was the second-ranked scorer in Friar history. In 1996 Wilkens’ #14 jersey was retired by the college, the first alumnus to receive such an honor.
Wilkens had a distinguished career as a player in the NBA. He was drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft. He played for the Hawks (1960-68), Seattle SuperSonics (1968-72), Cleveland Cavaliers (1972-74), and Portland Trail Blazers (1974-75).
Wilkens placed second to Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967-1968 MVP balloting. He was a nine-time NBA All-Star, and was named the 1971 NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1971.
He led the league in assists in the 1969-70 season, and at the time of his retirement, Wilkens was the NBA’s second all-time leading playmaker, behind only Oscar Robertson. He is a Nine-time All-Star and All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1972), and a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Among the community honorees at the AAESHOF event will be Joe Pace who will receive the Don’t Give Up Award. 30 years ago Pace slept in one of Seattle’s finest hotels, as a visiting pro basketball player for the Washington Bullets sharing in an NBA championship won at the expense of the Sonics.
He went from the NBA to eventually being homeless.
Pace 54, has been an ongoing media story after falling from grace as a member of that Washington Bullets’ 1978 NBA championship team. Since his playing career, Joe has been homeless in Seattle but recently received the keys to a low-income house in North Seattle. “It’s a place where I won’t disturb anybody,” Pace said.
He was destitute and eating mealsat a downtown facility, which also provided job leads. Instead of being a millionaire, he was homeless. “Sometimes I didn’t want to wake up, I was so sad,” Pace said. “Sometimes I’d wake up crying and say ‘What did I do to be like this?’”
The Annual Pacific Northwest Induction Ceremony will begin with a “VIP Reception with the Stars” at 11:00 a.m., followed by lunch at 12:00 p.m. and the induction ceremony at 1:00 p.m. The event will conclude at 2:00 p.m.
This event is the AAESHOF’s major annual fund-raiser, proceeds of which fund the Hall of Fame’s After School Youth Intervention Program. It helps students from economically challenged backgrounds fund their education through our “Academia Achievers Award Program.”
The AAESHOF has assisted over 350 students to date through this program
The AAESHOF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is dedicated to the development of opportunities for young, less fortunate youth to gain exposure to positive aspects of life, and to broaden the public’s understanding of African American/Ethnic history and the role of diversity and cultural tolerance in the growth of professional sports.
The event is sponsored in part by Outback Steakhouse, Ethiopian Airlines, and Amtrak.
NOTE: For more information, log on to http://www.afrosportshall.com.