Spurs memory 17: Ice becomes first Spur inducted in Hall of Fame

Date: Monday May 6, 1996
Place:  Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, Mass.

George Gervin’s history-making career with the Spurs was capped by the ultimate honor.

Gervin became the first Spurs player to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame during ceremonies for the class of 1996.

“I loved the game; I didn’t play to be in the Hall,” Gervin told the Express-News before his enshrinement. “But, because I loved the game, I was able to play in a way that brought me here. 

“I never could imagine myself being in the Hall of Fame.” 

His passion for the game came from his older brothers Claud and Booker. Family members remembered that Gervin wouldn’t leave the Belle Isle Park in inner-city Detroit until he had hoisted at least 300 practice shots. His mother, Geraldine, told the Express-News that “Ice” practiced by himself so late at night that the janitor would bring him home from the school gymnasium. 

From that humble beginning, Gervin developed into one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. At the time of his enshrinement, Gervin was sixth in NBA scoring with a 26.2 average in his 10 seasons. When his ABA numbers were added, Gervin was eighth in history with 26,595 points, which trailed only Oscar Robertson among guards. 

When he was inducted, Gervin was part of a class that included George Yardley, David Thompson, Gail Goodrich, Nancy Lieberman-Cline and the late Kresimir Cosic of Croatia. Thompson and Gervin were notable because both overcame substance-abuse problems late in their playing careers to become Hall of Fame members.

Gervin was a four-time NBA scoring leader who still holds the single-game record for most points in one quarter – 33 against New Orleans in 1978.

He was escorted into his enshrinement by fellow ABA legend Connie Hawkins.

And at the time of his induction, Gervin was a forceful advocate for a program he later saw come to fruition when he proposed retired players serve as mentors for rookies.

“The NBA has a responsibility to help these kids,” Gervin said. “If it doesn’t . . . maybe it is just all about money.”

Later, Gervin aided in the development of younger players like Kevin Durant, who he helped with his early adjustment into an NBA standout. 

”I’m glad to be in the record books,” Gervin told the New York Times. ”And I would hope that Kevin Durant would have an opportunity to be there.”

They said it, part I: “”A finger roll was my answer to the dunk,” Gervin to USA Today about his favored offensive move.

They said it, part II: “They say very, very few people recover, and I’m proud of these two men for having done so. They say life is bigger than basketball sometimes,” Yardley on the recovery of Gervin and Thompson from substance abuse problems to become Hall of Famers.

They said it, part III: It must have been part of my destiny to awaken me to    a better life,” Gervin said about his recovery from substance abuse, which he called his personal Hall of Fame.

They said it, part IV: “”I played for the fans. I played to entertain them . . . I really care about the people in San Antonio. That’s my town. For the people that couldn’t make it, I know they’re here spiritually,” Gervin to the Express-News before his induction. 

They said it, part V: ”Life for me, as I’ve gotten older, is all about relationships. That’s what means the most to me,” Gervin to the Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot on his philosophy after his retirement. 

They said it, part VI: “That was my patented shot. One thing I could do was finger roll,” Gervin’s comments in the classic Nike commercial with David Robinson and Tim Hardaway.   

THE UPSHOT: Gervin’s popularity has extended over years for generations of fans in Spurs Nation, as he has remained one of  the most iconic players in franchise history … After he returned to San Antonio after the Hall of Fame induction, he was honored by the city in “George Gervin Day” that included a barge parade on the San Antonio River.  Later in 1996, Gervin was selected as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all-time and recognized at ceremonies the following season at the 1997 All-Star Game. “Man, that was a special moment when they introduced the NBA 50 Greatest Players and gave us those commemorative jackets,” Gervin told the Michigan Chronicle. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences, but that weekend, all but three of the 50 were there and we bonded, talked, reminisced and shot the breeze, too.” A series of post-retirement commercials with Nike enabled Gervin to receive wide national notoriety and commercial success that might have been missing during his playing career. Who can forget those Nike commercials where he was a and in a ?

Previous Spurs most memorable moments:

No. 18: Kerr’s unexpected barrage .

No. 19: Rodman’s final Spurs incident .

No. 20:after injury-riddled 3-15 1996 start.

No. 21: Spurs for David Greenwood.

No. 22: Spurswith bubbly.

No. 23: Horry-Nash , may have sparked title run.

No. 24: Ice’s clandestine arrival .

No. 25: Barkleywith series-clinching shot.

No. 26: Silas becomes first Spur.

No. 27: Robinson makes history with .

No. 28: after crucial 1999 victory at Houston.

No. 29: on Halloween night.

No. 30: Torrid San Diego shooting

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