Nelson officially headed to Hall of Fame
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Reggie Miller rode his sister's coat-tails all the way to the Hall of Fame.
The five-time All-Star joined longtime NBA coach Don Nelson and college standout Ralph Sampson on Monday as part of a 12-member class that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September. Miller's sister, Cheryl, was enshrined in 1995.
Miller was at home when he received the call a couple days ago that he had gained entrance to the exclusive club. He quickly called his sister, one of the pioneers of the women's game.
"I can still hear her screaming in my ear," Miller said with a smile.
Miller often recalls the story about how his sister would beat him in games of one-on-one growing up. It wasn't until he'd grown to 6-foot-7 and could block Cheryl's shot that they finally quit playing those driveway pick-up games.
"She was a role model. She is a role model. She set the bar high for the family," Miller said, "and I'm just glad I'm on her coat-tails, dragging me along to the Hall of Fame."
Miller certainly earned the trip in his own right.
After a standout career at UCLA, he became one of the best perimeter shooters in the history of the game. He was part of the 1996 gold medal-winning Olympic team and played more games with one franchise than any player except John Stockton and Karl Malone.
He also caused untold fits for the New York Knicks, for years the biggest rival of his Pacers.
The night at Madison Square Garden that Miller scored an improbable eight points in 8.9 seconds, almost single-handedly winning Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, is chronicled in the Peabody Award-winning documentary, "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks."
"To be a part of this exclusive club is pretty special," Miller said.
The club in Springfield, Mass., now includes two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, four-time NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes, longtime college referee Hank Nichols and the All-American Red Heads -- the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters.
The newcomers were joined by five members of the class who already had been announced: Nike co-founder Phil Knight, ABA star Mel Daniels, seven-time NBA All-Star Chet Walker, Olympian Don Barksdale and Lydija Alexeeva, who led the Soviet Union to two Olympic gold medals.
The class will be inducted during a ceremony scheduled for Sept. 7.
"I was sitting on my back porch, smoking a cigar, when I got the call," said Nelson, a five-time NBA champion as a player and the winningest coach in league history.
"It was a great moment for me. I'm the luckiest man in the world," Nelson said. "I've been involved with the game of basketball for over 60 years, and I've never had a bad day, even when we lost games. They've all been great days."
Nelson won 540 games in his 11 seasons as the head coach in Milwaukee, the most wins in the franchise’s history. Nelson led the Bucks to the playoffs nine times, including three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 7-foot-4 Sampson was one of the most dominant college players in history, a three-time national player of the year who led Virginia to the Final Four. He was the first overall pick in the NBA draft and a four-time All-Star before injuries finally slowed his career.
McClain was dealing with her kids at home when she learned she had been inducted in the Hall of Fame. The two-time All-American at Georgia helped the United States win Olympic gold in 1988 and 1996, and the bronze medal in 1992, blazing a trail for future WNBA stars.
The son of a Baptist minister, Wilkes was a two-time NCAA champion with UCLA and a three-time NBA All-Star. His jumper was so smooth that announcer Chick Hearn called it a "20-foot layup."
Nichols refereed 10 Final Fours and six national championship games before coordinating officials for the NCAA, while the All-American Red Heads entertained millions of fans over the course of six decades, breaking untold social barriers along the way.
"It's a very special time for people who have been involved in the game for a long time to be in the presence of those who have already been in inducted into the Hall of Fame," Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team was ousted by Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday night, was among the finalists who were passed over by the committee.
Also missing out were four-time All-Star Maurice Cheeks, former Celtics and Rockets coach Bill Fitch, four-time All-Star Bernard King and longtime college and NBA coach Dick Motta.