Reggie Miller, who made his reputation as a big-game player, and Don Nelson, who won more games than any other National Basketball Association coach, were among the class of 2012 announced today for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
This year’s class, unveiled before the National Collegiate Athletics Association men’s tournament final in New Orleans, also includes former players Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and Katrina McClain, official Hank Nichols and the All American Red Heads, a touring women’s team that billed itself as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Those chosen for induction had to receive at least 18 votes from a 24-member committee. Nelson, 71, said that he was sitting on his back porch smoking a cigar when he received the call saying he was elected.
“I’m one of the rare guys that throughout his life has been able to do what he loves to do,” Nelson said today in a televised interview. “Now to be elected into the Hall of Fame is like the cherry on top of the icing.”
Miller, 46, played his entire 17-year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, retiring in 2005 as their all-time leader in points (25,279) and steals (1,505). The five-time All-Star and 1996 Olympic gold medalist made an NBA-record 320 3-point shots in the playoffs and shot 88 percent from the free-throw line.
Miller joins his sister Cheryl, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. He called the election a “humbling experience.”
“To be a part of this exclusive club is really special,” Miller said. “I get a chance to join Cheryl as the first brother-and-sister act in the Hall of Fame. She is a role model, and she set the bar high for the Miller family.”
Nelson was a three-time NBA Coach of the Year and won a league-record 1,335 games. He spent over 40 years as a player, coach and general manager, winning five NBA titles as a forward with the Boston Celtics and making the playoffs 18 times as coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Dallas Mavericks.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Nelson said. “I’ve been involved in the game of basketball for over 60 years, and I’ve never had a bad day.”
The Red Heads, the first professional women’s basketball team, often played 200 games a season from 1936 to 1986, travelling to 49 states, Canada and the Philippines, breaking social barriers and gender-based stereotypes in basketball.
The 58-year-old Wilkes won two NCAA championships at UCLA prior to a 12-year NBA career that included four league titles and the Rookie of the Year Award in 1975. Sampson, 51, won the same honor in 1984, the year after winning his record third Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year award.
McClain, 46, won Olympic gold medals on U.S. teams in 1988 and 1992. Nichols worked six NCAA title games and 13 Atlantic Coast Conference championships as a referee before becoming the national coordinator of officials for the NCAA.
The inductees were among 12 finalists announced last month. Those who missed election included ex-players Maurice Cheeks and Bernard King, and coaches Rick Pitino, Bill Fitch and Dick Motta.
The Hall of Fame, in Springfield, Massachusetts, was established in 1959 and has 313 inductees, including former players, coaches, referees, teams and other contributors to the game. Players become eligible five years after retirement; coaches and referees must be retired for five years or have worked fulltime for at least 25 years.
This year’s class will be inducted on Sept. 7.