Here’s what we know about the 2014 National Basketball Association Hall of Fame class: one commissioner is in for sure, and five former players are in consideration, as well as four coaches. Four other players were elected as representatives from different groups within the voting block (the international committee, the ABA committee, the early African-American pioneers committee, and the veterans committee).
The ones that are in? David Stern, the commissioner who just concluded a tumultuous and tremendous 30-year career that saw the NBA change from an also-ran American sport to a global phenomenon. For the international committee, Lithuanian player Šarūnas Marčiulionis, who played for the Golden State Warriors, the Seattle Supersonics, the Denver Nuggets, and the Sacramento Kings, as well as winning a gold medal with the USSR in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
The ABA committee’s selection was Bobby “Slick” Leonard, an NCAA winner as a player and longtime coach of the NBA’s Pacers, both before and after the NBA-ABA merger (Leonard lead the Pacers to three ABA titles). The veterans committee selected two-time league assist leader and current Chicago Bulls single-season assist leader Guy Rodgers, while the Early African-American Pioneers of the Game committee selected former New York Knick Nat Clifton, who was the second African-American player to ever sign an NBA contract. Now, let’s take a look at the players and coaches who may be joining them on August 8.
Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway
For a brief period in 1990-1991, the Golden State Warriors were the most exciting team in basketball. Between 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mullin, the aforementioned umlauted wonder Šarūnas Marčiulionis, and small forward Rod Higgens, the Warriors featured a flashy, high-speed offense centered around Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway. Together, they were known as Run TMC. They had a rap song written about them (you can hear it at the beginning of the video below). They were awesome.
Coached by Hall of Famer Don Nelson, whose preferred version of the game, colloquially called Nellieball, eschewed normal size match-ups for uptempo basketball, and Run TMC was one of the best versions of Nellieball ever. Between Hardaway’s incredible crossover, Mullin’s deadly accuracy from deep, and Richmond’s slashing and low-post offense, the Warriors used offense as their best defense, charging hard and running teams out of the gym.
While Run TMC’s time was much shorter than most people think — Richmond was traded to Sacramento (and later had his number retired by the Kings) in 1991 — the high-scoring trio’s impact echoes beyond its brief tenure. Mullin is already in the Hall of Fame, Hardaway had his number retired by the Miami Heat (a team that can recall Run TMC when they’re firing correctly), and Richmond remains the second-highest scoring inactive player outside of the NBA Hall of Fame (he sits behind Allen Iverson, who is ineligible for the Hall until 2016).
Kevin Johnson and Spencer Haywood
Former NBA star and the first (and current) African-American mayor of Sacramento, point guard Kevin Johnson could make his case for the Hall of Fame based solely on his tireless effort to keep the Kings in SacTown. Five time All-NBA sounds great, but it hardly holds a candle to “campaigned against an apathetic ownership group and helped prevent what looked like a done deal to move the Kings to Anaheim or (later) Seattle.”
Johnson was also a three-time All Star, and was, briefly, in the best point guard conversation with Magic Johnson. He also memorably dunked over Hakeem Olajuwon in a playoff game while as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, Spencer Haywood is famous for dunking on everybody, as well as a lawsuit that changed the NBA forever. Back in the ’70s, Haywood joined the Seattle Supersonics, despite the fact that he was too young, according to the NBA’s age restriction at the time. After the dust settled, Haywood, along with coach Bill Russell, would electrify Sonics fans until his trade in 1975.
Haywood would eventually win a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980, but he had become enwrapped in the cocaine culture of the ’80s, snorted his talent away, and was dismissed from the Lakers during Game 1 of the 1980 NBA finals for being too out of it. Eventually Haywood righted the ship and redoubled his efforts into community building and public service.
‘Zo, known for his defense and his impressive battles with the New York Knicks and his own kidneys, is either famous to you by virtue of his position with the Miami Heat organization or his role on the Charlotte Hornet teams of the mid ’90s. The purple-and-teal starter jacket Hornets. The best kind of Charlotte Hornets. Together with Larry Johnson, Mourning lead the Hornets to the playoffs from his rookie year onward, and ‘Zo would only miss the playoffs once from 1992 to 2001.
Of course, Mourning’s relationship with Charlotte would sour by 1995, and he would sign a $160 million dollar contract with the Miami Heat to begin the ’95-’96 season. Teaming up under Pat Riley and Tim Hardaway, the Heat would embrace a physical, slow-it-down and beat-them-up style of basketball that saw ‘Zo average 20 points and 10 rebounds while winning Defensive Player of the Year twice on a team that rarely scored more than 95 points a game.
While Mourning’s kidney failure sidelined him in the early 2000s, he was picked up by the New Jersey Nets and was even traded to the Raptors for a spell before rejoining the Heat in 2005. Alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade, Mourning would win a championship with Miami in 2006. He was the first member of the Heat to have his number retired. Mourning still works with the organization as its vice president of player development.
The college coaches
Eddie Sutton, 77, was a Division I basketball coach for 36 years, working with schools from Oklahoma State to Kentucky to Creighton and Arkansas. Sutton is one of eight college coaches to have amassed more than 800 wins, a record he began tallying when he joined his alma mater, Oklahoma State, as an assistant coach in 1959. His overall record stands at 804-327, a 71 percent win rate.
Harley Redin, the only coach on this list not to have his own Wikipedia page, is already a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, having been enshrined for his efforts in coaching both genders and getting women’s hoops recognized by the Olympic Committee and other national and international organizations. He compiled a 431-66 record with Wayland Baptist University. There’s Nolan Richardson, the only coach to have lead a team to success at every level of college ball — Junior College, the National Invitation Tournament, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Richardson has a lifetime coaching record of 508-206. Lastly, there’s Gary Williams, current Big 10 college basketball commentator, who lead the Maryland Terrapins to the longest playoff appearance streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference, making the post-season every year from 1994 ’til 2005.