The 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame class is being enshrined Saturday, and there are some very special players with very special stories who are going to have their names on the wall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Most of the stories you will read about them will focus on their greatest moments. But here you'll get to enjoy a few different stories from an NBA writer who covered each and every one of them at different times during their careers.
So let’s have at it as we endure Week 85 or whatever it is of the pandemic that is testing the fortitude of each and every one of us. Survival hint: (Laughter is the best medicine.)
Oh yeah, in case you want to place some bets on the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season, which is only a few weeks away, head on over to MaximBet to check out their basketball odds.
While covering the infamous wheelchair game (the opener of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers), Pierce went down under the basket, stayed down, and eventually was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair, which everyone watching on TV could see but which journalists in the TD Garden could not see.
My phone rang with an editor asking what was up with the wheelchair, sending this reporter on a mad scramble to find out an answer that remained elusive throughout that night. It was especially weird because Pierce later ran back onto the court and played a big part in the Celtics’ 98-88 win.
Before being dismissed earlier this year by ESPN for the egregious offense of broadcasting a party with strippers and weed on his Instagram, Pierce fessed up about the wheelchair incident, explaining it was because he needed a bathroom break.
But a wheelchair for a bathroom break? Only one thing could explain that, and it could be safely called an accidental discharge. Or, to put it more bluntly, he shit himself and did not want the whole world to see his white shorts stained brown. Safe to say those shorts will not be enshrined along with Pierce later this week.
This was one of the coolest cats I ever covered, a guy who went from being undrafted to being a four-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.
It should not go unmentioned that NBA scouting staffs miss on these types of guys all the time and select duds instead. A former player whom I know very well told me recently that these days, NBA front offices are full of quant heads instead of actual basketball people. So, when picking your NBA Finals matchups and making your wagers at MaximBet months in advance, stick with teams who have actual basketball people running the show.
Anyway, Wallace was so respected and beloved that notorious hardass Scott Skiles, who had a strict no-headband rule, waived that rule in 2006 when the Bulls swept the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
Speaking of Skiles, he has not been heard from since quitting as head coach of the Orlando Magic on May 12, 2016. The way I have heard the story, an organizational meeting was held after Skiles’ first and only season as head coach, and he demanded that more than half the roster be traded because the players were soft. When general manager Rob Hennigan refused, Skiles said “OK, I quit” and walked out. He and Wallace were cut from the same cloth.
If you know anyone who works at the FBI, ask them to take a peak at the Chris Webber file and see what it says about his infamous fuckup at the end of the 1993 NCAA championship game. He called a timeout that Michigan did not have and the Wolverines, who had possession of the ball down 2 with 11 seconds left, went on to lose to North Carolina by six points.
But before the timeout after Webber grabbed a defensive rebound, he clearly committed a traveling violation that was not called. Folks who operate in the gambling world later theorized that Webber had travelled intentionally and had called the extra timeout intentionally to ensure that Michigan would lose.
Whether or not that theory holds water is likely something the FBI looked into because Webber’s “Fab Five” team was a squad that a large portion of white America detested. But like so many FBI files, they are under lock and key and will never be seen by the public at large for reasons that are never explained.
Whatever the case, Webber’s timeout still goes down as his most famous play. Webber is now teaching about athlete activism at Morehouse College and has launched a private equity fund for minority-owned cannabis businesses.
Very few people have ever heard of the Chris Bosh Rule. But it exists, and it was an outgrowth of the heart condition that forced Bosh to retire early from the NBA because of a blood clotting problem.
The NBA and player's union instituted a rule in 2016 that allowed players with conditions such as Bosh’s to apply for clearance to play, but that player (such as Bosh) would have to sign a medical waiver and then be cleared by a panel of three physicians jointly chosen by the league and the union. If clearance were to be granted, the player could return to the league.
But here is the interesting thing: When this rule was put together five years ago, it actually prohibited Bosh from re-signing with the Miami Heat – something the Heat kept under very tight wraps. Bosh never did return to the NBA, and he wrote a book entitled Letters to a Young Athlete that chronicled his medical journey.
It was released earlier this year and is available on Amazon or at your local bookstore if that bookstore’s proprietor has been able to stay afloat during the national on-and-off lockdown that is making us all batshit crazy.
The longtime Portland Trail Blazers coach was hired by the late Paul Allen, who used to call into the folks at Blazervision from his yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean asking why the reception on Blazers games was fuzzy.
The folks back in Portland explained that if his yacht was navigating 20-foot-waves, the signal would be spotty at best.
The coach of Villanova is often mentioned as the top candidate for an NBA job whenever an NBA job opens up. But what many people fail to realize is that Wright is perfectly happy with the job he has at Villanova and has no desire to leave.
He gets his coaching jones stoked a little extra by working as an assistant on Team USA. If he ever leaves Villanova for an NBA job, the world will have turned upside down.
A seven-time WNBA All-Star and five-time All-WNBA selection (Sacramento Monarchs, Seattle Storm and Indiana Fever), Griffith was also a member of the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Women’s Olympics teams (they are currently on a 55-game winning streak that dates back to last century).
At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the women defeated Australia for the gold medal before flying back to the United States along with Larry Brown’s men’s national team (captained by Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson) that had lost to Puerto Rico by 19 points in their opener and then Lithuania in the opening round (and Argentina in the semifinals).
Both teams had stayed together on the Queen Elizabeth II in Athens harbor, and the charter flight that brought both teams home included 12 women with gold medals and 12 men with bronze medals.
Folks who were on the flight said the razzing (particularly by Griffith) that the American women gave to the men was endless and brutal. To this day the members of that U.S. men’s team like to keep their participation in that particular Olympics a secret.
Like Elle MacPherson, Lauren Jackson is a very attractive Australian woman. She won three Olympic silver medals with the Opals (a.k.a. the Lady Boomers) and spent 12 seasons in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm, winning the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2003, 2007 and 2010.
Jackson is married to Australian journalist Paul Byrne, who is a lucky man (sort of like McPherson’s hubby, Jeffrey Sopher). His wife is a 6-foot-5 bombshell whose parents were both members of the Australian national basketball teams. But as anyone who has ever been to Australia will tell you, the likes of Jackson, McPherson and Mel Gibson are outliers.
When the Miss Universe pageant is held every year, you can be sure of two things: Miss Venezuela and Miss Columbia will be among the favorites, and Miss Australia will be fairly close to a unicorn (with long odds).
If you have a debate with someone about the greatest player ever and his name does not come up, remind that person that the dude won 11 championships during his 13-year career. He is going in as a coach for the eight seasons he spent leading the Celtics, Kings and SuperSonics.
Also being inducted are Bob Dandridge, Howie Garfinkel, Toni Kukoc, Val Ackerman and Cotton Fitzsimmons and Clarence “Fats” Jenkins. They were selected by the Veterans’ Committee, the International Committee and the early African-American Affairs committees. The humorous stories about them will be told at their inductions.
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