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Chet Walker among five direct-elects for Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Former Bulls forward joins Mel Daniels, Don Barksdale, Lidia Alexeeva and Phil Knight as the first members elected for the Class of 2012; remaining members will be announced April 2
As a member of the Chicago Bulls along with Gar Heard and Jerry Sloan, Walker led the NBA in free throw percentage at .859 during the 1970-71 season. (Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images)

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ORLANDO, FL and SPRINGFIELD, MA (February 24, 2012) – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today the first five members of the Class of 2012, all of whom were directly elected by distinguished committees focused on preserving all areas from the game of basketball. These direct-elects include Mel Daniels voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.

Chet Walker Walker played six seasons with the Bulls, from 1969-1975, averaging 20.6 points per game over 474 contests.
(John Mitchell/NBAE)

This year marks the second year of the direct-elect process. Last year, the ABA and Early African-American Pioneers committees were added to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting process and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball. These five individuals have been directly elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame and will be a part of the Enshrinement Ceremonies in September along with the eventual members from the North American and Women’s committees.

These electees will join the eventual candidates of the North American and Women’s committees from a pool of finalists that includes five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller, five-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain. Previous finalists included again this year for consideration are Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and the All American Red Heads.

The entire Class of 2012 will be announced on Monday, April 2 at a news conference in New Orleans prior to the NCAA’s Men’s Championship game. A Finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass. on Friday, September 7. Tickets to the 2012 Enshrinement and Induction Celebration are available by calling the Hall of Fame at (413) 231-5540.

From the ABA Committee
MEL DANIELS [Player] – Daniels is one of the most dominating big men in the history of the American Basketball Association (ABA) as the league’s all-time leading rebounder (9,494) and fourth all-time leading scorer (11,739). A two-time league MVP in 1969 and 1971, he was a seven-time ABA All-Star and a member of three ABA championship teams with the Indiana Pacers, now of the NBA. He was selected as a member of the ABA 30-Man All-Time team. In college, Daniels starred for the University of New Mexico, leading the Lobos in scoring for three straight seasons and was the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player in 1967. He was drafted ninth in the 1967 NBA Draft, but chose to go play in the ABA instead. Following his ABA Rookie of the Year award in 1968, he went on to earn All-ABA First Team four times and Second Team once. After his professional career, which concluded as a member of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, Daniels joined the coaching staff at Indiana State, where he coached future Hall of Famer Larry Bird. He was also a member of the Indiana Pacers front office for over 20 years.

From the Early African American Pioneers Committee
DON BARKSDALE [Contributor] – One of the true pioneers in the game of basketball, Barksdale broke the color barrier multiple times as the first African-American NCAA All-America, the first to make the U.S. Olympic team, and the first to play in a NBA All-Star game. Following his military service in World War II, Barksdale led UCLA to the Pacific Coast Conference championship and became the first African-American signed by an American Basketball League (ABL) team with the Oakland Bittners where he set the ABL scoring record in his debut season. Part of the 1948 Olympic team in London, he became the first-ever African-American to also win a gold medal in basketball. In 1951, he became one of the top 10 highest paid athletes with the Baltimore Bullets and was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics in 1953, where he became the first African-American player to be selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game. In 1983, he launched the Save High School Sports Foundation, which raised over 1 million dollars by the time he passed away in 1993 to save several Oakland school athletic programs from demise.

From the International Committee
LIDIA ALEXEEVA [Coach] – Alexeeva is one of the most successful coaches in International basketball history, highlighted by leading the Soviet Union National Team as head coach to gold medals in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, four FIBA World Championship titles (1967, 1971, 1975, 1983), four World University Games gold medals, 10 European Championships and 17 USSR National Championships. She was undefeated in International play for over 17 years. She also coached Hall of Famer Uljana Semjonova. As a player, Alexeeva played on Soviet National Teams that won four European Championships (1950, 1952, 1954, 1956). She has also been enshrined in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (1999) and FIBA Hall of Fame (2007).

From the Veterans Committee
CHET WALKER [Player] – Walker is widely known as one of the most athletic, skilled and resilient players in his era having missed only 21 games in his decorated 13-year NBA career. The seven-time NBA All-Star was also a member of the 1967 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers that is recognized as one of the greatest teams in history and ended the Boston Celtics run of eight straight titles. He went on to score 18,831 points and grab 7,314 rebounds in his career and was only the eighth player in NBA history to play more than 1,000 career games at the time of his retirement in 1975. As a member of the Chicago Bulls, he led the NBA in free throw percentage at .859 during the 1970-71 season. In college, Walker was a unanimous First Team All-America selection in 1962, leading Bradley to the NIT finals in back-to-back seasons, and winning the championship in 1960. He graduated as Bradley’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 24.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. He was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals and selected to the 1963 NBA All-Rookie Team.

From the Contributor Direct Election Committee
PHIL KNIGHT [Contributor] – One of the most significant contributors to the game of basketball, Knight, Nike’s co-founder, is currently the company’s Chairman of the Board. Under his guidance, Nike became the first sports brand to work with elite athletes to garner their insights to create the most innovative products. In basketball, Knight worked to create one of the company’s most iconic partnerships with Michael Jordan. He has had a long history of working with other basketball greats like Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Dirk Nowitzki to Coach K and Vivian Stringer. Knight also signed Sheryl Swoopes as the first woman to have her own signature basketball shoe. His company now supports NBA stars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin and Kevin Durant. Knight’s support of basketball internationally has also helped to elevate the game globally, including its current sponsorship of USA Basketball. He’s also focused his efforts on supporting college athletics – including basketball – by providing resources to grow and maximize the collegiate game and the student-athlete experience through programs such as Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse and his alma mater Oregon. In 1993, he was named the Most Powerful Man in Sports by The Sporting News.

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