Don Nelson, owner of the record for the most wins by a National Basketball Association coach, and five-time All-Star Reggie Miller were among the 12 inductees this year into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nelson, 62, was a three-time NBA Coach of the Year and accumulated 1,335 wins during 15 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. He spent more than 40 years as a player, coach and general manager, winning five NBA titles as a forward with the Boston Celtics.
“When I look back at my career, I was the luckiest guy in the world,” Nelson said last night during the induction ceremony. “Now I’m going to Maui. There is life after basketball.”
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 1996 Olympic gold medalist made an NBA-record 320 3-point shots in the playoffs and shot 88 percent from the free-throw line.
“The guy that took the gamble on a skinny kid with big ears in 1987 was Donnie Walsh,” Miller said, acknowledging the president of the Pacers.
Miller joins his sister Cheryl, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
“I just so happened to live across the hall from the greatest woman basketball player ever,” he said, addressing his sister. “I’m not on this stage without you.”
Ralph Sampson, a three-time college player of the year, played with the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Washington Bullets during a career that spanned 1983-1992.
“My journey has taken me such a long way. I learned how to value basketball,” said Sampson, who admitted he originally favored baseball.
This year’s class also included Jamaal Wilkes, who won two National Collegiate Athletic Association titles and four in the NBA; two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Mel Daniels, seven-time NBA All-Star Chet Walker; two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain; and the late Don Barksdale, the first black player on the U.S. Olympic team and in the NBA All-Star game.
NCAA referee Hank Nichols, Nike Inc. co-founder Phil Knight and former Soviet Union women’s coach Lidia Alexeeva, who was undefeated in 17 years of international play also were inducted.
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.