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Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller is presented with a jersey at the news conference announcing the Hall's new members.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

Miller, Nelson headline Hall of Fame class of 2012


Posted Apr 2 2012 5:23PM

Reggie Miller?

Done, pretty authoritatively.

Don Nelson?

Done, strangely but finally.

Ralph Sampson?

Done, at last.

Jamaal Wilkes?

Done, after decades.

Four new members of the Hall of Fame with NBA ties were announced Monday in New Orleans as part of the Class of 2012 bound for Springfield, Mass., and the 1970s and '80s rejoiced. The decades between were celebrated as well, from Wilkes to Sampson to Miller as Nelson touched all over the timeline, while the basketball museum stuck to the recent mandate of addressing the previously overlooked.

This was not the year for obvious winners, not in the way it was in 2010 with Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen and will be again next year with Gary Payton. Miller, the former Pacers scoring star and on-court personality, was as close to likely enshrinee as possible, and even his entrance was an uncertainty after he didn't even reach the finalist stage in 2011. It was a wait for him too in that way, the secret group of insiders from college and the NBA plus media members sending a strong message with their vote that only the greatest of players will so much as survive the first cut as ballot rookies. Dennis Rodman was sent down the same convoluted path 12 months earlier -- from failing to be named a finalist to election.

"It's a humbling experience obviously" Miller said on the NBA TV broadcast from New Orleans in conjunction with the Final Four there. "You look at all the men and women that are on this dais and the ones that are out there (in the audience) watching this and the ones that are at home, to be a part of this exclusive club is pretty special."

This was, instead, the year about past years, and that's not even counting the previously announced elections of Mel Daniels via the ABA Committee, Don Barksdale through the Early African American Pioneers and Chet Walker from the Veterans. Nelson got in after being passed over several times before, including months after he became No. 1 on the NBA career coaching win list and after noticeably losing support by going from previous finalist to being eliminated in the first round of voting last season. Wilkes last played in 1985-86, Sampson in 1991-92.

It was so much about past years that the Sampson, especially, and Wilkes candidacies were clearly boosted by their college careers. The Virginia years -- three-time Naismith Award winner, two-time Wooden Award winner -- was practically the entire basis for the deserved induction, once injuries ruined what could have been a great NBA run as well. Wilkes did have several important accomplishments that put him in the Hall conversation -- an integral part of four championships, Rookie of the Year, three times an All-Star, twice second-team All-Defense -- but his major role on the steamroller Walton Gang at UCLA was an obvious benefit.

There were package deals everywhere. Miller joins sister Cheryl in the Hall. Wilkes and Sampson played for the Warriors and Nelson coached at Golden State. Miller and Daniels will be enshrined in the same Sept. 7 ceremony in Springfield in a dual Pacers celebration. Wilkes, Miller and Barksdale all starred at UCLA.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world," Nelson said at the announcement. "I've been involved in the game of basketball for 60 years, and I've never had a bad day. Even when we've lost games and we've had some tough experiences, they've all been great days. I'm one of those rare guys that throughout his life has been able to do what he's loved to do and I've done it my entire life. Now to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is like the cherry on top of my ice cream."

Hank Nichols, a longtime college and international referee, was elected by the same North American Committee on Monday. Maurice Cheeks, Bill Fitch, Bernard King, Dick Motta and Rick Pitino fell short of the 18 votes required from the 24-person panel.

Katrina McClain, a former star at Georgia and two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the All American Red Heads, a barnstorming team from 1936 to 1986, were elected by the Women's Committee.

The inductions of Lidia Alexeeva, the coach of the Soviet Union women's team that won two Olympics and four world championships, and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, via the Contributor category, had previously been announced. They will be inducted Sept. 7 as well.

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