Gilmore, Rodman become Hall of Famers

By Mike Monroe

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Dennis Rodman promised Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo he would be on his best behavior during his enshrinement ceremony at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Given his history as a basketball non-conformist, there was reason for concern. After all, when Hall officials asked him to select a Hall of Famer to be his escort to the stage, he told them he wanted Eddie Vedder, front man of the rock group, Pearl Jam, whom he has followed on tour on numerous occasions.

“I told them Eddie was a Hall of Famer — that he was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Rodman said before Friday’s ceremonies. “But then Eddie told me Pearl Jam’s not in the (Rock and Roll) Hall. How messed up is that?”

Instead, Rodman chose his Bulls and Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, to welcome him to the podium, and when the great defensive specialist and relentless rebounder had his moment in the Hall of Fame’s spotlight, he tried hard to make good on his vow. But as his Bulls teammates often remarked during his time with Chicago, there was no way to keep Dennis from being Dennis.

Rodman’s acceptance speech was part valedictory, part confession. Often struggling to keep his emotions in check, he praised those who had impacted his life — Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, late Pistons coach Chuck Daly and James Rich, an Oklahoman who had helped raise him.

But he couldn’t stop himself from making some self-deprecating remarks that turned vulgar at times, and Colangelo must have cringed, knowing the ceremonies were being telecast live on NBATV.

Rodman spent more podium time thanking those who helped him during his career, even thanking NBA commissioner David Stern “for even having me in the building.”

Rodman was one of two inductees with ties to the Spurs. Artis Gilmore, who entered the Hall as the first inductee to come from a new committee convened to recognize Hall-worthy performers from the American Basketball Association, played five seasons with the Spurs.

As jarring as Rodman’s speech sometimes turned, Gilmore’s was elegant and gracious.

Though he had to wait 18 years after his first year of eligibility to enter the Hall, Gilmore expressed no bitterness at the wait.

“My trip to this stage was a long one,” he said, “yet today it is not about the journey, it’s about the destination. Millions of people have laced up their sneakers since Dr. Naismith invented the game several miles from here in 1891. Every one of them would like to be in my shoes today. None of them, however, would appreciate it more than I do.”

Gilmore acknowledged Colangelo’s role in establishing the ABA committee that finally allowed him to enter the Hall. He also reminded listeners that there was a time when the level of play in the ABA matched that of the NBA.

“While I played 12 highly distinguished seasons in the NBA, I also want to recognize the ABA, many of whose members I join in the Hall today,” he said. “In 1975 our Kentucky Colonels, coached by Hubie Brown, was the best team in professional basketball. At least I think so.

“You know, the ABA introduced the 3-point line and the slam dunk contest. In fact, we were ‘Showtime’ before there was ‘Showtime.’ Everyone who ever played in the ABA treasured that experience.”

Gilmore went from the ABA to the Chicago Bulls in 1976, but came to San Antonio in 1982 at age 33. He made two NBA All-Star teams during his five seasons in silver and black.

Nicknamed “the A-Train,” he led the NBA in field goal percentage his first three seasons in San Antonio, and shot better than 60 percent in each of his first four Spurs seasons. In his final season, at age 37, he shot 59.7 percent.

The Hall’s Class of 2011 included 10 individuals: Rodman; Gilmore; Chris Mullin, the great shooter of the Warriors and Pacers and a two-time Olympic gold medalist; Arvydas Sabonis, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian center considered by many one of the greatest big men ever to play at any level, though NBA fans saw only the end of his career when he played for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1995-2003; women’s star Teresa Edwards, the first American to participate on five Olympic teams, winning four gold medals and a bronze medal; Stanford University women’s coach Tara VanDerveer, one of five Division I women’s coaches with more than 800 victories; coach Tex Winter, whose triangle offense was the offensive foundation of six Bulls championship teams and three Lakers title teams; Tom “Satch” Sanders, former Celtics standout and NBA executive; Herb Magee, whose teams at Division II Philadelphia University have won more than 900 games; and the late Reece “Goose” Tatum, a great ambassador for the sport of basketball as the original “clown prince of basketball” for the Harlem Globetrotters.

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