Tim Hardaway took the stage and told a story about how, during his early days in the NBA, Golden State teammates Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin would frequently ask him the same question.
‘Tim, how great do you want to be?’ they’d ask.
‘Hardaway stated.They have an answer. Everyone else does as well. He’s a basketball legend.
On Saturday night in Springfield, Massachusetts, Hardaway, Manu Ginobili, Swin Cash, Bob Huggins, Del Harris, Lindsay Whalen, Marianne Stanley, Theresa Shank Grentz, and George Karl were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“A kid from Chicago’s east side made it all the way to Springfield, Massachusetts,” Hardaway explained. “Incredible.”
Throughout the evening, the theme was how an honor that none of the new Hall members expected had now come their way, with each of them thanking those who assisted them in reaching the pinnacle.
Ginobili was presented by Tim Duncan, who is already a Hall of Famer, and the third member of San Antonio’s legendary Big 3 — Tony Parker — will be eligible for selection next year.
“For me, the Spurs were a big, strong, supportive family,” Ginobili said.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will be inducted into the Hall of Fame someday, but the NBA’s all-time wins leader refuses to be considered until his career is over. Ginobili dedicated a special tribute to him.
“What can I say, Pop? “You’ve been so important to me and my family, both on and off the court, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough,” Ginobili said, his voice cracking.
Cash, an NCAA, WNBA, and Olympic champion, also paid tribute to her UConn coach, Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, and her Huskies teammates, including the group that went 39-0 in 2001-02.
“If you want to know who the greatest basketball team ever was, ask about us,” Cash, who now works in the front office of the New Orleans Pelicans, said.
Duncan and Ginobili were not the only teammates present. Stanley and Shank Grentz were teammates at Immaculata in the 1970s before moving on to coaching careers and, now, the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Stanley said.
“I am still overwhelmed,” said Shank Grentz, who, like all inductees, learned of her selection in April.
Whalen, whose legendary playing career was followed by a return to their alma mater Minnesota and coaching there, might have gotten into the Hall of Fame by thanking a fast-food corporation.
“Thank you very much, Burger King,” Whalen said.
To explain, Whalen, a former hockey player, was nervous, crying, and refusing to enter the gym at her first basketball camp. Her parents, however, had paid for camp and were unwilling to let her leave, so negotiations began quickly. The deal was eventually reached: if Whalen went to camp, she’d get a Whopper Jr. with cheese for the ride home.
“I had a fantastic time,” Whalen said.
Her parents’ refusal to allow her to play hockey was a cruel twist of fate. For Harris, it was a professor who encouraged him to spend a year coaching a junior high basketball team before enrolling in seminary.
Harris planned to become a pastor; ironically, Dr. James Naismith, the founder of basketball, was also a pastor. Instead, Harris followed in Naismith’s footsteps by becoming a coach.
“After that year, I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” said Harris, who coached at nearly every level imaginable, including high school, college, the NBA, international teams, and the FIBA.
His path to the Hall of Fame began modestly, as did Huggins’ — who now coaches at his alma mater, West Virginia, and has won over 900 games in his collegiate career — and Karl’s, who got emotional when paying tribute to his college coach at North Carolina, Dean Smith, and laughed when discussing the challenge of coaching a Hall of Famer like Gary Payton.
“For a guy from Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, this is really incredible,” Karl said. “For me, this is a ‘wow’ moment.”
Huggins even did some coaching as he paid tribute to Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, during his speech.
“I think you’re allowed to clap,” Huggins said. “I’m not sure what the rules are, but what the heck, let’s make them up as we go.”
Hardaway, Richmond, and Mullin formed the “Run TMC” trio, which is still popular today. Mullin was elected to the Hall in 2011, and Richmond three years later. They were on the stage Saturday night, just to Hardaway’s left, when his wait came to an end.
“Legendary, baby,” said Hardaway. “We were famous.”
Hugh Evans, one of the NBA’s first Black referees, six-time All-Star Lou Hudson, former coach Larry Costello, international great Radivoj Korac, and a trio of former Harlem Globetrotters in Wyatt “Sonny” Boswell, Inman Jackson, and Albert “Runt” Pullins was also honored.
A special tribute was paid to Bill Russell, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, first as a player and then as a coach. Russell died earlier this year, and the ceremony on Saturday began with Hall of Famers Jerry West and Alonzo Mourning paying their respects.