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Hall of Fame Has Local Flavor

I'll be in Springfield, Mass., on Friday for the enshrinement of possibly the greatest class to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Michael Jordan is the headliner, obviously, with him regarded by most as the best to ever play the game. But fellow original Dream Team members David Robinson and John Stockton are no slouches and Jerry Sloan is the greatest coach in NBA history to never win a championship.

Stockton is the only member of that quartet that doesn't have any local ties. I wrote about Jordan's failed two-year tenure earlier this week, and the Chicago Tribune tackled the subject in an excellent special section that breaks down Jordan's career in 12 parts (Jordan's days in Washington are fittingly summed up in Chapter 11). Slam Magazine also looked into that forgettable final stage of his career. But Jordan isn't the only member of this Hall of Fame class to spend part of his career with the Wizards/Bullets franchise.


I could've been doing this for the Bullets, too.(Lane Stewart/SI)

Sloan is known as "The Original Bull" because he was the first player the Chicago Bulls drafted in the expansion draft in 1966. But his career began in 1965 with the Baltimore Bullets, who drafted him out of Evansville the year before only to watch him return to college for his senior year. A few years ago, Sloan spoke with Mike Wise and me about his rookie season with the Bullets. Wise wrote that Sloan made $12,500 his first season and had a difficult time dealing with losing.

"My first basketball game here in Baltimore, this is 1965," Sloan begins. His teammates told him then, "It was no big deal to lose your first game."
"I was heartbroken," he said. "They said, 'We only got 78 games left or something like that.' I thought, 'Wow, that's really weak.' I felt bad. I didn't get to play very much, but I felt bad. I was always taught, growing up, that you play this game to win. You put everything you have into it. If you don't like it, get another job."
Did we mention Sloan fouled out of six of the first seven games he played with the Bullets?
He has one more year left on his current contract and hasn't committed to returning. Sloan plays down his longevity, too, saying Stockton and Malone were behind most of it. "I was spoiled," he said. "No question about it. I thought it was all my coaching." When he was asked a year ago how a perfectionist like himself could hang around for 20 years, he smiled.
"People said I would never be able to coach in this league because I'd get too frustrated," Sloan said.

Sloan, of course, has gone on to lead the Utah Jazz for 21 seasons, reaching two NBA Finals and recording the fourth-most coaching wins in NBA history (1,137). Unlike when he cut ties with Jordan, Pollin actually regretted leaving Sloan available in the expansion draft and watching him go on to make two all-star appearances in Chicago. Sloan said Pollin never expressed that feeling to him until a chance encounter after the Wizards defeated the Jazz last November. Sloan told me that he hadn't spoken to Pollin in more than 40 years before that brief chat.

"You're the guy I drafted here," Pollin said. "I made a mistake and let you go."

"I had a fun time while I was here," Sloan told Pollin.


Nu-uh. None of that weak stuff. (Manny Millan/SI)

David Robinson never played professionally in this area, but he grew up in Manassas and went on to become an All-American and Naismith and Wooden Award winner playing at the Naval Academy. Think about that. The guy led Navy to the Elite Eight in 1986. Not Maryland or Virginia or Georgetown. Navy. In his final collegiate game, Robinson had 50 points with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots in a loss to Michigan. Then he went on to go No. 1 overall to the San Antonio Spurs, where he won a scoring title, an MVP award and two NBA championships.

It's amazing how Robinson blossomed so late (he was 6-foot-6 as a high school senior and left college standing 7-1). I had to do a little digging and I found an old story that Michael Wilbon wrote about whether Robinson was the real deal during the 1986 NCAA Tournament. I had to chuckle when I read a quote from one of the people Wilbon interviewed. Wizards fans should be familiar with him.

Those who questioned Robinson's ability during the regular season said that he didn't play against big-time teams every night, rarely saw an opposing pivotman taller than 6-8, wasn't aggressive enough and was short on experience, which supposedly would show up in the postseason. Obviously, that hasn't happened.
"Last year, I thought he was potentially the best center in the country," said American University Coach Ed Tapscott, whose team plays in the Colonial Athletic Association with Navy. "This year, I think he is the best. I know people still have questions. But his performance in the NCAA tournament ought to dispel all the damn questions."
Tapscott was one of several people interviewed who said that Robinson's athleticism sets him apart from other 7-footers. Although Naval Academy officials haven't been able to find the exact time, it is widely believed here that Robinson holds one of the best marks in the Navy obstacle course.
Robinson still demonstrates gymnastic maneuvers for the plebes. And [Navy] Coach Paul Evans tells the story about the time Robinson came back from an exhibition tour of Spain with a new trick. "We went to a Hardee's one day and David said, 'Coach, look what I picked up in Spain.' And he walked from the car to the restaurant on his hands."

I'm hoping that tonight's festivities will be just as entertaining.


By Michael Lee  |  September 11, 2009; 8:42 AM ET
 | Tags: David Robinson, Jerry Sloan, Michael Jordan  
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Next: Best HOF Quotes From Stockton, Sloan and Robinson

Comments

first lol

Posted by: prescrunk | September 11, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

If Robinson had not developed back problems he easily cound have played several more years and garnered as many more championships with 'Timme'.

I remember having conversations when Timme was drafted and one guy said Robinson should retire. A pure lack of understanding of how pieces on the court can make champions.

He did not understand that with the greatness of Timme and David in the middle even at the end of his career would put the Team over the top.

Too many people misunderstand and underestimate the value of having a legitimate NBA center in the middle who knows how to play the game.

David Robinson was also pretty damn good to boot. Haywood is not even close to Robinson overall, but he always has been an legitimate NBA center.

It just too bad that the Wizards had to find this out because of injury to Etan Thomas and Eddie Jordan finally had to give Haywood some playing time. The point was further driven home when Haywood went down himself because of injury.

Too often, we set ideals and goals on what others should be. They wanted, some fans, bloggers, the coach, Haywood to be a certain type of center, but they all failed to realize that Haywood was not being played fairly, so that he could prove that he could handle the Center position in the NBA.

I had many conversations years ago where it was suggested that the Wizards should have gotten rid of Haywood. I would always reapond that that would be a hugh mistake. NBA centers, good ones, nobody would be giving up that was better than Haywood.

One person agreed with me and that was Ernie Grunfield. You can say all you want about Ernie, but if he had left the decision to get rid of Haywood up to Eddie Jordan, we would still be looking for a legitimate NBA Center.

David Robinson, a more than worthy Hall of Famer. Haywood probably won't be, but a better than good NBA Center he is.

LarryInClintonMD

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 11, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Was Tap dating Stevenson back then too?

Posted by: Fontana1 | September 11, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Fascinating post!

Haha. I loved it. Tapscott sure has an eye for talent. :)

He just can't coach worth a damn. :)

Posted by: iamse7en | September 11, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Larry

Haywood is what he is, a decent, salary-cap friendly center for now, nothing more. For this wizards team, it would be hard to replace him.

I respect your opinion most of the times but....do you always have to play up the Tar Heels? It makes you wonder whether you play up Haywood because you respect his game or because he is a Tar Heel

Posted by: G-Man11 | September 11, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Only on this board could someone turn a piece on David Robinson's HoF induction into a soliloquy on the glory of Brendan Haywood.

Posted by: kalo_rama | September 11, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I respect your opinion most of the times but....do you always have to play up the Tar Heels? It makes you wonder whether you play up Haywood because you respect his game or because he is a Tar Heel

Posted by: G-Man11 | September 11, 2009 11:46 AM

G-Man11,

For sure I am partial to Dem' Dar' Tarheels.' But, I think I would have been in Haywoods corner even if he were not.

When you evaulate Haywoods value to the Team at center in comparison with everybodyelse they tried to stick in there, he clearly outshines them all.

My whole point of being in the tank for Haywood, is that clearly the Wizards always had better chemistry and played better when he was on the court, even though many would have liked to have seen better from him.

Jerry Stackhouse whom I thought would be a much better pro than Haywood may not end up being considered better Haywood after it is all said and done.

Stackhouse has gotten a few unfavorable words on this blog but you have never seen me coming to his defense.

So GMan11, no, it is not all about just being a Tarheel, for I feel they must continually prove themselves and I am betting the best is still to come from Brendan Haywood.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 11, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The version of Haywood from the year before last was clearly an improvement over the one competing with Etan for PT. I am one to believe he worked at it and his improvement was not because of Gil's absence but because Haywood practiced and he should be commended.

Posted by: G-Man11 | September 11, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Only on this board could someone turn a piece on David Robinson's HoF induction into a soliloquy on the glory of Brendan Haywood.

Posted by: kalo_rama | September 11, 2009 12:32 PM

Easy. Look at the title of Mike's Blog... "Hall of Fame Has Local Flavor"...

What I did was take Mike's blog and expand on the idea of those whom did not appreciate the value of David Robinson in the twilight of his career to a local fellow in Brendan to those that donot continually appreciate him.

I bought the "Hall of Fame Local Flavor" home even more to make it more relevant to the comments on this blog.

It is called expanding on an idea and what Mike was doing was making the Hall of Fame induction more relevant by tying in a local flavor and I carried it further.

So Kalo, in that respect, would you say I did OK?

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 11, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

What a load.

Posted by: kalo_rama | September 11, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

What a load. Don't think so. Come again.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 11, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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