April 2, 2012
Miller, Nelson headline NBA Hall class
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
NEW ORLEANS - The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has its first brother-sister act.
Reggie Miller joined his previously-inducted sister, Cheryl as a member of the hall on Monday, headling a class that also includes the NBA's all-time winningest head coach Don Nelson and college superstar turned injury-plagued pro Ralph Sampson.
Miller, one of the best outside and free-throw shooters the game has ever seen and a fierce competitor who as leader of the Indiana Pacers stretched Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and other excellent teams like the 1994 runner-up New York Knicks to the limit.
Miller thanked his sister, arguably the greatest women's player of all-time for the inspiration.
"She's a role model, she set the bar high for the family and I'm just glad I'm still on her coattails, dragging all the way to Springfield," Miller said.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd join this group. This is the highest honour you can achieve."
Miller spent all 17 years of his career with Indiana and will be remembered for his knack for coming through in the clutch, often while yapping at opponents and spectators like Spike Lee.
He is the all-time leader in post-season three-pointers made, second in regular-season treys and ninth all-time in free-throw percentage.
He oddly was left off the ballot a year ago.
Nelson, a five-time champion as a player with the Boston Celtics, before embarking on a great run as a coach, was elected on his fifth try.
He is one of only two people to be named coach of the year three times.
"I'm the luckiest man in the world, I've been involved in the game of basketball for over 60 years," said a jubilant Nelson, one of the game's great offensive innovators.
"I've never had a bad day, even when we've lost some games "¦ I'm one of those rare guys who, throughout his life, has been able to do what he loves to do "¦ Now to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is like the cherry on top of my ice cream."
Sampson's NBA career was shortened due to injuries, but he still led the Houston Rockets to the NBA final, was an all-star game MVP and rookie of the year after becoming just the third player ever to win college player of the year three times.
The selection committee also chose former UCLA and Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes, barnstorming all-female team the All-American Red Heads, multiple gold-medal winning standout Katrina McClain and longtime referee Hank Nichols.
Also inducted directly by various oversight prevention braches of the hall were Mel Daniels, a two-time ABA MVP with Indiana who joins Miller as the first Pacers to be enshrined; Don Barksdale, who broke the colour barrier as the first African-American NCAA all-American, U.S. Olympic team member and NBA all-star; seven-time all-star Chet Walker; Nike co-founder Phil Knight and former Soviet Union national women's team head coach Lidia Alexeeva.
Among the finalists not elected were Rick Pitino, Bernard King and Maurice Cheeks.
The hall has taken heat over the years for its selection process, but chairman Jerry Colangelo defended the process and said fan voting would become involved in some way starting next year.
"When people look at a process regarding the election process, everyone has opinions on that. The people who have been involved are not that interested in having their names disclosed so they don't get hustled and promoted for support," Colangelo told the Toronto Sun.
"We rotate all the people coming from media, coming from the world of pro and the college game so I know it's a clean, transparent process. But I also thought the fans should have a piece of the action because I know that creates more interest "¦ when they have a voice, that will stimulate even that much more interest."