In May, the basketball world gathered to induct the 2020 class into the Hall of Fame. That ceremony was delayed because of COVID-19, so now, four months later, a second delayed induction was held for the class of 2021. On Saturday, the following legends were honored with induction into the Hall of Fame.
North American Committee
- Rick Adelman
- Chris Bosh
- Paul Pierce
- Bill Russell (already in as a player, will now be inducted as a coach)
- Ben Wallace
- Chris Webber
- Jay Wright
- Yolanda Griffith
- Lauren Jackson
Contributor Committee Direct Elections
- Val Ackerman
- Cotton Fitzsimmons
- Howard Garfinkel
Early African American Pioneers Committee Direct Elect
- Clarence "Fats" Jenkins
International Committee Direct Elect
- Toni Kukoc
Veterans Committee Direct Elect
- Bob Dandridge
Women's Veterans Committee Direct Elect
- Pearl Moore
Here are some of the highlights from Saturday's ceremony:
Chris Bosh thanks Kobe Bryant and returns a long-overdue gift
Pat Riley recruited Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat relentlessly in 2010. He was so determined to land Bosh and fellow All-Star LeBron James that, in his meeting with Bosh, he not only dropped all of his championship rings on the table, but even gave the one he won in 2006 to Bosh with a simple message: "Give it back to me when we win one together." Two years later, they did just that, but Bosh never got around to returning the ring … until Saturday's ceremony.
Hanging over the ceremony was the absence of a player who affected nearly the entire incoming class in some way or another. Kobe Bryant was inducted as a member of the 2020 class, but his death in a helicopter accident sadly prevented him from seeing so many of his contemporaries get honored. Bosh was sure to thank the Lakers legend for his role in making him a Hall of Famer, telling the story of Bryant squeezing in an entire workout at Team USA's training camp before Bosh had even woken up despite losing in the NBA Finals only days earlier. The lesson to Bosh was obvious. "Legends aren't defined by their successes, they're defined by how they bounce back from their failures."
Paul Pierce calls out the teams that passed on him
Paul Pierce's induction into the Hall of Fame was a mostly happy affair. He even buried the hatchet with former teammate Ray Allen, whom he and Kevin Garnett publicly snubbed after Allen left the Boston Celtics for the Miami Heat.
But Pierce couldn't help but get one last shot in on nine teams: the Clippers, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Raptors, Warriors, Mavericks, Kings, 76ers and Bucks. Why them? Those are the nine teams that passed on Pierce in the 1998 NBA Draft. He thanked them for allowing him to fall to Boston, which allowed him to become a Celtics legend.
Toni Kukoc appreciates Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for embarrassing him
Toni Kukoc may have become a Chicago Bulls great by winning three championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but his relationship with the duo didn't start off on the right foot. Jordan and Pippen resented Kukoc, whom the Bulls had drafted in 1990, for a variety of reasons. He was a favorite of general manager Jerry Krause, whom Jordan and Pippen famously feuded with, and Krause saved salary cap space for Kukoc that could have gone to Pippen.
When the three finally met in the 1992 Olympics, Jordan and Pippen went to great lengths to embarrass him. The two defended him across a non-competitive game between the Dream Team and Kukoc's native Croatia and held the budding star to only four points on 2-of-11 shooting. But Kukoc isn't bitter. In fact, he thanked the two of them for showing him what succeeding in the NBA really looked like.
Ben Wallace reflects on his legacy
Ben Wallace, the undersized center who won four Defensive Player of the Year awards despite being listed between 6-7 and 6-9, summed up his legacy better than anyone else could have. "I'll tell you my legacy," Wallace began. "I wasn't welcomed. I was too small. I couldn't play the game the way they wanted me to play the game. Sounds like an uneven game to me. Put me on a level playing field and I'll show you. Panthers march," he closed with a raised fist.
Webber makes it on the eighth try
Chris Webber needed eight tries to finally make it into the Hall of Fame, but in 2021 his career finally received the recognition it deserved. The former Sacramento Kings star grew up in Michigan during the heyday of the Bad Boy Pistons, so naturally, he was welcomed into the Hall by their leader, Isiah Thomas. After recounting the memory of meeting Thomas as a teenager, Webber went on to call the Pistons great his "guardian angel."
Bill Russell gets in for the second time, and is honored by Barack Obama
Bill Russell made it into the Hall of Fame for his legendary playing career a long time ago, but less appreciated was his groundbreaking career as a coach. Russell became the first black coach in NBA history in 1966 when he took over for Red Auerbach with the Celtics. He won two titles as a player-coach before moving on to stints with the Sonics and Kings, and that resume has earned him induction for a second time. That makes him one of only three people in the history of basketball to make it in as both a player and coach, joining Lenny Wilkens and former teammate Tommy Heinsohn. In his brief speech, Russell thanked three instrumental figures in basketball history who are no longer with us: Bryant, Auerbach and former commissioner David Stern.
Russell's impact on the basketball world extends far beyond the court, though. He was a trailblazer off of it as well, and former President Barack Obama, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, spoke about his tremendous social impact ahead of his second induction. "This is a man who marched with Dr. King and stood by Muhammad Ali," Obama said. "He endured insults and vandalism, but never stopped speaking up for what was right."
Former President @BarackObama congratulates Bill Russell on his induction into the @HoopHall as a head coach. As a player-coach, Russell led the @Celtics to the 1968 NBA championship, becoming the first African-American head coach to win an @NBA title. pic.twitter.com/uRdSPsrDYG— NBA (@NBA) September 11, 2021