The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will enshrine 12 new members in September. The Class of 2019 was announced earlier this month during the Final Four at the Vikings stadium. We chatted with three of the inductees after the announcement and press conference.
Overshadowed by such heralded teammates in Philadelphia as Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and others, Bobby Jones first cut his defensive teeth against the best in the ABA. “I really felt the ABA prepared me to play in the NBA,” the 12-year veteran player admitted. “So many amazing players — Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, George McGinnis — guys I had to guard and very difficult to guard.”
Teresa Weatherspoon is the WNBA’s New York Liberty player development coach. The only Black woman elected in this year’s class, the latest honor is another note on her iconic resume. Weatherspoon hit “The Shot,” the most famous shot in WNBA history, made from beyond halfcourt with two seconds left to defeat the eventual champions, Houston, and force a third game in the 1999 Finals.
A five-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time international All-Star and 1988 Olympic gold medalist, Weatherspoon pointed out, “What I have reflected on a lot is my whole basketball life, which I started when I was four years old. But what is standing out for me the most is how excited my family is, because they understand my journey. I also think a lot on my mom,” who recently passed away, she said humbly.
Sidney Moncrief played 10 of his 11 NBA seasons in Milwaukee, a five-time All-Star, two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and four-time league All-Defense team member. His Bucks club, however, wasn’t able to get past those of Boston and Philly, the East’s power elite at the time, the 1983 All-NBA first team member noted.
“We won eight [division] titles” and won 50 or more games each season, Moncrief said. (Milwaukee won a total of 332 games during that run.) “We didn’t win a championship, but we were second. When you are competing at a high level and winning, and doing it the right way, it deserves recognition.”
The other Class of 2019 members include the late Charles “Chuck” Cooper, who joins Earl Lloyd and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton in the Hall, all three of whom broke the NBA’s color barrier in 1950; the late Carl Braun, posthumously; Al Attles (Contributor); Bill Fitch (Coach); Jack Sikma, Vlade Divac and Paul Westphal (Players); the Tennessee A&I Teams of 1957-59; and Wayland (Texas) Baptist University (Team).
The enshrinement will take place September 6 in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Haskins remembered as ‘tough’
Before his team played Texas Tech in the Final Four, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, when asked, paid homage to former coaches Bob Knight, the late Jud Heathcote who hired him as a graduate assistant, and the late Flip Saunders. We asked him about former Minnesota coach Clem Haskins, who led the last Big Ten team (1997) to win a league title before the conference instituted the current post-season tournament.
“He taught me a lot,” Izzo said of Haskins, now retired. “Those three guys (Haskins, Heathcote, and former Purdue coach Gene Keady) were all tough guys, but I swear to you none tougher than Clem Haskins. I just learned about how hard a team played.
“That was a vintage era… I have tremendous respect for those guys. They were great coaches, great guys. I miss all three of them in the league, I really do.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.