By the time the formal announcement is made, there is no suspense left in who makes the Naismith Hall of Fame. The news has leaked out. Occasionally incorrectly at first, but it leaks out.
Still, it’s now official — NBA legends Gary Payton and Bernard King will enter the hall this September. Here is an official rundown of the class.
• Gary Payton: A lock-down defender who is one of the greatest point guards of his generation, a nine-time All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two-time gold medalist and the face of Seattle Sonics basketball. He has an NBA championship as well (Miami 2006).
“When I started playing basketball and got in the NBA I just wanted to be a guy in the NBA doing something,” Payton said in a televised interview on a stage in Atlanta with the other inductees. “But even as my career went on and started getting better and better I still never thought about being in the Hall of Fame.
“When I think about it, I don’t even feel like I’m here now. It’s such a dream.”
• Bernard King: The Knicks swingman was one of the greatest pure scorers of all time. He averaged 22.5 points per game during a 15-year career and had some monster playoff runs, like 1984 when he averaged 34.8 points per game. This was long overdue, glad to see it happen.
“I’d like to say this was a dream, but you can’t dream of something like this,” Kings said from the Hall of Fame stage.
• Richie Guerin: A native New Yorker who played for the Knicks, is a six-time All-Star guard known for his feisty style of play.
• Roger Brown: One of the great players of the ABA all time, a four time All-Star in that league.
• Oscar Schmidt: The Brazilian legend should already have been in, he is a five-time Olympian who remains the only player with more than 1,000 points in the Olympics.
• Russ Granik: David Stern’s former right hand man for years. Helped clear way for NBA players to be in Olympics.
• Also in are Rick Pitino (college coaching legend), Jerry Tarkanian (college coaching legend), Dawn Staley (WNBA legend, three time gold medalist), Sylvia Hatchell (North Caronia’s women’s college coach), Guy Lewis (University of Houston college coach including the Phi Slama Jama years), and George Raveling, the longtime college coach enters on a lifetime achievement award.