A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
A Distinguished Class
He’ll enter basketball’s Hall of Fame as an individual and a member of the Dream Team on the same day.
“I’ll be able to take one trip and kill both,” Pippen said with a laugh.
Pippen, Karl Malone and two of the best U.S. Olympic teams — including that famed 1992 Dream Team — were selected Monday as part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2010. Malone and Pippen, both eligible for election for the first time, were part of that ’92 Olympic team.
Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, high school coaching great Bob Hurley, Sr., and WNBA star Cynthia Cooper also were in the class announced at the Final Four. NBA veterans Dennis Johnson and Gus Johnson and international star Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira will be honored posthumously.
The 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic teams, which both won Olympic gold medals, will be part of the induction ceremony on Aug. 13.
The 1960 team, led by Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, won eight games by an average of 42.4 points in the Rome Olympics. The Dream Team, the first Olympic team made up primarily of NBA players, was even more dominant, with an average margin of victory of 43.8 points in sweeping eight games in Barcelona.
“Playing for your country is the ultimate,” said Larry Bird, who represented the team at Monday’s ceremony. “Our team was pretty special. We had some pretty good players.”
Bird also was thrilled by Dennis Johnson’s inclusion in the hall of fame.
“It’s very special. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” he said.
“He’s the best player I ever played with.”
Dennis Johnson, a three-time NBA champion, was the MVP of the 1979 Finals with Seattle before taking over as the point guard on the Bird-led Boston Celtics teams of the mid-1980s. He died of a heart attack in 2007 at age 52.
“This is a very emotional time for me — I’m trying not to cry,” his wife, Donna, told the crowd. “This is such a great end to a great career.”
The announcement brings a pair of the NBA’s best duos into the hall: Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz, and Pippen and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.
Malone, a two-time NBA MVP, was an All-Star in 14 of his 19 seasons who led the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. The second-leading scorer in NBA history, Malone finished his career in 2004 with 36,928 points.
Traveling with his family, Malone did not attend Monday’s announcement.
Both of his trips to the finals ended with losses to Pippen, Jordan and the Bulls. Pippen, a seven-time NBA All-Star during his 17-year NBA career, won six championships alongside Jordan, who along with Stockton was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
“I don’t want to say jealous — he was out of the game before me,” Pippen quipped. “He came first, but it would have been nice if I could have went in before him. … I’m happy to be there and get a chance to experience what it’s like to go into the Hall of Fame.
It’s a great experience.”
Hurley is the third high school coach elected to the hall. He finished with a 957-106 record and 24 state championships in 38 seasons at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J.
Fittingly, Hurley’s election to the hall was announced in Indianapolis, where 19 years ago his son Bobby led Duke to its first national championship. The Blue Devils were playing Butler later Monday night with their fourth title on the line.
The elder Hurley joked that he was more nervous about this announcement than he was before his son’s ’91 title game — because he was afraid he’d let the secret slip out.
“He was playing, not me,” Hurley said. “A high school game goes an hour and 10, an hour and 15 minutes, and bang, it’s done.
(Keeping the secret) has been days of waiting. To walk up on that stage was really nerve-racking.”
“Knowing this and not being able to officially share it with people was driving me crazy, and you’re so excited about it that you wanted (to tell). I wanted to tell the guy who was pumping gas the other day.”
Also, the announcement came a few days after the release of a documentary about Hurley and his program, which he said was modeled after Morgan Wootten’s fabled DeMatha Catholic powerhouse.
“The stars are all aligned right now,” Hurley said.
The Lakers have won nine NBA championships and 16 Western Conference titles since they were bought in 1979 by Buss, who did not attend the announcement.
Gus Johnson, who died in 1987, was a five-time All-Star who led the Baltimore Bullets to the playoffs five times in nine seasons. He scored 9,944 points and had 7,379 rebounds in 10 NBA seasons and led the Indiana Pacers to the 1973 ABA title.
Pereira, known as “The King” in his home country of Brazil, won five South American Championships and 11 title in that country’s Sao Paulo League before his death in 2002.
Cooper, who has coached at Prairie View A&M since 2005, won two WNBA MVP awards and led the Houston Comets to the league’s first four championships before retiring in 2003.
She brought her 7-year-old twins to Indianapolis, saying she hopes when they grow up, they’ll realize that “Hey, Mom was pretty good back in the day.”