Sportswriter completes his Hall of Fame grand slam

Another View

This year’s 13-member 2022 class going into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend includes two former Minnesota Golden Gophers: Lou Hudson and Lindsay Whalen. The MSR will be in Springfield, Mass. this weekend, personally completing a grand slam of halls. Previous stops included soccer and baseball in 2007 and college football in 2002.

What makes this weekend sojourn so special is that we will get to see a player inducted (Whalen) who we covered from beginning to now, and another (Hudson) who should have gone in years ago but now enters the Hall on Saturday posthumously.

“Lindsay was somebody that when I was in Connecticut [we] made sure that we [selected in the draft],” recalled Mike Thibault, then the Sun coach/GM on Whalen. She was eligible for the 2004 WNBA Draft, and the 5-9 Gopher point guard became the fourth overall pick that spring. 

“People kind of raised their eyebrows” on the selection, continued Thibault, now Washington’s coach/GM. “What I saw was a young, hungry player play unselfishly, play the right way, relishes her teammates’ success, has a sense of humor and laughs at herself. She’s just a joy to be around.

“She’s special,” he says of the first-time HOF finalist. This last part we and the late Kwame McDonald easily can second when we both saw Whalen play for the first time ever. We saw her as a headstrong player without fear eventually developing into a pro player who improved her jump shot to make her a double threat.

And after six successful seasons, two consecutive trips to the Finals in her first two pro seasons, and the 2008 league leader in assists, Thibault engineered a 2010 offseason trade to bring Whalen to her hometown Minnesota Lynx. She finished her 15-season career here with four WNBA championships and two Olympic gold medals. 

Whalen also played overseas for 10 off-seasons and is now a member of the Hall. She will be presented by HOFers Dawn Staley (2013) and Charles Barkley (2006).

This columnist wasn’t as lucky to see Hudson (1944-2014) play in college, but David Grimsrud of Zumbrota, Minn. did. “I watched Lou Hudson play many times for the Gophers in Williams Arena,” said the longtime Gopher fan. Hudson, Archie Clark and Don Yates were the school’s first three Black basketball players on scholarship brought to the U by coach John Kundla.

“There has to be a huge historical slot for Hudson, Clark and Yates at the U of M because of their race,” continued Grimsrud. “[Those] three starters were Black and very popular with the fan base.”

Hudson at 6-5 cemented his legendary Gopher lore when as a senior he played with a cast on his right hand and still scored nearly 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds a game with his left.  

As a young growing NBA fan, I only saw Hudson play during his 13 NBA seasons. He was the fourth overall pick by the St. Louis Hawks in 1966 and played with the team during their move to Atlanta and Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 1979.  

Hudson later went into broadcasting and politics (as a Park City, Utah city councilman). He died in 2014 after a major stroke at age 69. Spencer Haywood (2015) and Jamaal Wilkes (2012) will present Hudson for his rightful place in the Hall.

Others inducted this Saturday include Thresa Shank Grentz, Swin Cash, and the late referee Hugh Evans. Walt Frazier (electronic media) and M.V. Voepel (print) are two of the three Curt Gowdy Media Award winners.

Finally, it will be a grand time for us being around so many HOFs. I’m looking forward to collecting quotes from as many as I can during the two-day enshrinement event as the class of 2022 goes in and we get to complete our personal HOF grand slam.