Yow; Five Others Inducted Into Basketball Hall of Fame
Text of Coach Yow's Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
Sept 27, 2002
By JIMMY GOLEN
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - From the time Magic Johnson played all five positions in the NBA Finals as a rookie, there was little doubt he would wind up in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nothing was going to keep the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar out of the Honors Ring, where his name was added Friday as part of the class of 2002.
"He played the game like I always wanted to play the game," said Celtics great Larry Bird, the former rival picked to present Johnson for enshrinement. "He could come out and make things happen. That's why he was such a great player."
The Hall's new $36 million museum was christened when Johnson was inducted along with the Harlem Globetrotters, Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown, North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow, Arizona coach Lute Olson, and Drazen Petrovic, the NBA star and two-time Olympic silver medalist who died in a car accident in 1993.
Yow has a 611-252 record at Elon and NC State - the fifth women's coach ever to reach the 600-win milestone.
"When I was a little boy," Brown said, "the greatest day of my life was to go to Madison Square Garden and see the Harlem Globetrotters."
Jim O'Connell, college basketball writer for The Associated Press, and CBS announcer Jim Nantz will be honored with the Hall's Curt Gowdy Award, presented to members of the print and electronic media for outstanding contributions to the sport.
Harvey Pollack, a longtime Philadelphia public-relations man who first counted rebounds, steals and blocked shots, was given the Bunn Award for his contributions to the game.
Olson was not able to attend the ceremony because his son, Steve, was getting married in Italy. Petrovic was represented by his mother and brother.
Johnson admitted he worried he also wouldn't be able to attend. He first retired after testing positive for the AIDS virus in 1991, a time when it was thought the diagnosis was a virtual death sentence.
"The thing I'm happiest about is I'm actually here myself to accept this honor. I'm thankful that I'm living," Johnson said at a news conference before the induction ceremony.
"I'm doing very well, like I have been for the last 11 years. It's still laying asleep in my body. So the medicine is doing its job. I'm doing my job. And God is doing his."
Johnson did his job at every level, winning championships in high school, college, the Olympics and NBA - five, in fact. And he did it from every part of the court, a 6-foot-9 point guard who redefined the position and played the others, too, when the Lakers needed.
Johnson became convinced he could excel in the NBA after Game 6 of the 1980 finals against Philadelphia, when the rookie filled in at center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and had 42 points and 15 rebounds. He won the first of three NBA Finals MVP awards.
But it was the rivalry with Bird and the Boston Celtics that helped define Johnson and, he said, made him the player he was. Johnson led Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA title by beating Bird's Indiana State, and the two met three more times in the NBA Finals in the 1980s.
"I wouldn't be here if there were no Larry Bird," Johnson said. "Since college, he's the person who was driving me."
The NBA greats were together again Friday, swapping stories and laughs like they never did when they went head-to-head in one of the most intense - and lucrative - rivalries in NBA history.
"You had to conjure everything in your body when you played against the Boston Celtics and Larry," Johnson said. "But if you didn't hate them, you didn't beat them."
Bird retired from the NBA in 1992 and later was coach of the year with the Indiana Pacers. Johnson won a gold medal at Barcelona, returned for the 1992 All-Star Game and had a 16-game stint as Lakers coach in 1994. He returned for 32 games as a player in the 1995-96 season before retiring for good and becoming a successful businessman.
In all, Johnson had 17,707 points, 6,559 rebounds and 1,724 steals as a pro, and he was the NBA leader in assists (10,141) until John Stockton broke his record in 1995.
The Globetrotters have played 20,000 games in more than 100 countries since they were founded in 1927, entertaining generations with their unique basketball burlesque.
Brown has won more than 1,200 games and posted a winning record in 26 of his 30 seasons coaching six NBA teams, two in the ABA and two more in college. He won an NCAA title at Kansas in 1988, and led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001 after being named coach of the year.
Olson has stayed at Arizona, spending his last 18 years there while compiling a 767-255 record in 29 years. He has made five trips to the Final Four, and the Wildcats won the NCAA title in 1997.
Petrovic won two Olympic silver medals and averaged 15.4 points in four NBA
seasons before he died at age 28 in a car wreck in Germany.