Kids all across America grow up dreaming of being pro athletes someday. The dream of being their team’s star player, winning championships or even being famous and making millions of dollars to play the game they love. But there’s one special honor that players get across all sports, basketball included, that humbles athletes like no other, and that’s the honor and privilege of getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. The next time the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremony, 11 of the game’s most notable contributors will be enshrined. The list of inductees includes players, coaches and a truly admired referee.
Former leader of the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks and one of the greatest shot blockers in NBA history Dikembe Mutombo leads the way. Mutombo averaged 2.8 blocks for his career, which spanned 18 seasons. His penchant for defensive play and his seemingly routine shot blocking, finger-wagging ways garnered Mutombo an All-Star selection on eight different occasions. Although he scored less than 10 points per game during his 18-year tenure, he did snatch 10.3 rebounds per contest and more importantly than that, Mutombo used his platform as a player to continually make a difference in his native Congo, and he’s known as much for his humanitarianism as he was for his basketball abilities.
Representing the WNBA in the Hall Of Fame is Los Angeles Sparks legend Lisa Leslie. Leslie will go down as one of the most dominant players in the young history of the league, and her enshrinement in the Hall of Fame confirms that. In 12 seasons with the team, Leslie averaged 17.3 points, 2.3 blocks and 9.1 rebounds. She’s a two-time WNBA champion, three-time MVP, four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the first-ever women’s player to eclipse the 6000-point plateau.
As much as Leslie is seen by many as one of the modern-day pioneers of women’s basketball, former NBA referee Dick Bavetta should be viewed in the same way when it comes to officiating in the NBA. Bavetta first began his career as a referee in 1975 and announced his retirement in 2014. His 39-year career bared witness to many changes to the rules and style of the game, and through all of the time, Bavetta always maintained the respect of players, coaches and managers alike. He was one of the first referees ever to engage in a proper physical training regimen and changed the way the game is called.
Perhaps the most well-known inductee outside of the professional ranks is current head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats John Calipari. While Calipari’s squad was handed a shocking loss at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four last Saturday, Calipari’s resume speaks for itself. He did manage to win a national championship with the team back in 2012 and has been coaching since way back in 1982.
Other notable inductees announced this week include: former Boston Celtics star Jo Jo White, Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn, former player John Isaacs, former Los Angeles Laker Spencer Haywood, ex-ABA star Louie Dampier and Australian player and coach Lindsay Gaze.
Each of these newly recognized Hall of Famers reached beyond their own childhood dreams in making a lifelong commitment to serving the game of basketball and are well deserving of the honor. Others considered for this year’s induction ceremony included former point guards Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson, women’s coach Leta Andrews and among former Celtics coach Bill Fitch among others. The Class of 2015 will be officially inducted on Sept. 11 of this year. Congratulations to all of the inductees.