Class Acts
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:00 p.m. ET

It was certainly the most special of nights, filled with class, grace, and humor. So sad it had to end. This class certainly ranks among the all-time best. Have a great night. I certainly did!

Solid Gold
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 9:20 p.m. ET

You obviously know that Charles was a key member of the 1992 Olympics but he also won a gold in 1996 as well, which you tend to forget. The man who had a connection to both teams, Lenny Wilkens, an assistant on the1992 team and later the head coach of the 1996 team, fondly recalls Barkley's contribution. "In 1992, he kind of set a tone because the European teams at that time were trying to be a little bit physical and Charles let them know that we would be aggressive right back with them (edit note: see Angola game). In 1996, we wanted the world to know that we were the best and we wanted to show them." Which they did, compiling an 8-0 record on its way to the gold.

The population of Leeds, Alabama, is approximately 10,455 and the number of families is 4,585 ...

Sir Charles' speech clocked in at little less than 14 minutes ...

Twice As Nice
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 8:58 p.m. ET

Quite a year for Mr. Auriemma who was also inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville back in April. Born in Montella, Italy, Auriemma arrived in the Norristown neighborhood of Philly when he was 7 years old ... Did you know that Auriemma and Jack Ramsay, his sponsor, didn't meet until after UConn's perfect 35-0 national championship season in 1995 ... Ramsay is a Philly legend, leading St. Joe's to 7 Big 5 championships and a 234-72 record ....Dr. Jack was also the GM of the record-breaking 1967 76ers team coached by Alex Hannum and led by Wilt.

Draft Day Steal
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 8:38 p.m. ET

As Dumars is set to take the stage, Chuck Daly shared with me earlier how Joe D fell into the Pistons' lap in the 1985 Draft where they selected him with the 18th overall pick. They had Dallas to thank.

"I had a film of Joe and I'm in my office and I'm looking at the film and I heard about Joe Dumars, our people were high on him. So I looked at it and I wrote down on a yellow pad a note on every player and I wrote next to Joe's name - "A player" which meant to me that he can really play in the league, that he'll be a really good player. But we had heard all of the rumors that Dallas was going to take him and we thought for sure he would never be on the board. Then all of a sudden when Dallas took Bill Wennington with the 16th pick and then Uwe Blab with No.17, we were shocked that Joe was available at that time. We were in pretty good shape at guard. We had John Long, Isiah and Vinnie but we didn't think we could pass on Joe."

Daly eventually inserted him in the starting lineup in Joe's rookie season and the rest is history.

Rhode Island is in the Hall
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 8:21 p.m. ET

Did you know that Dave Gavitt is the first person from Rhode Island to be inducted in the Hall of Fame? Dave Gavitt has had such a brilliant career that you tend to forget he once was the CEO of the Boston Celtics .... The Gavitt-Barkley connection goes back to 1992 when Sir Charles was a member of the Dream Team .....Charles and not Michael led that team in scoring 16 PPG.

Gamba's Influences
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 8:10 p.m. ET

At media availability this morning, Sandro Gamba spoke at length of the four U.S. coaches who had the greatest impact on him in teaching the game ... Bobby Knight, going back to the West Point days when Mike Krzyzewski played there. It was Knight who told Gamba he should visit Chapel Hill and seek instruction from Dean Smith, which Gamba did for a week or so .... Gamba also cited Jerry Tarkanian for the fastbreak influence and Hall of Fame head coach Jack Ramsay ....

Sandro Gamba also spoke of how Lou Carnesseca was one of the first coaches to visit Italy and teach clinics, which he learned a great deal from the St. John's legend ...

Even though Hall of Famer Dino Meneghin, who was the first European player drafted in the NBA (Hawks 1970) never did play here, Gamba didn't hesitate when asked if he would have starred. He said he would have been a great power forward here citing his quickness for his size.

'Nique and Gerald
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:56 p.m. ET

Highest scoring brother combo in NBA history --- Nique and Gerald, more than 38,000 combined points ... the runner-up brother duo: The Van Arsdale Brothers (Dick and Tom) with 29,309 points ... By the way, Gerald wasn't too happy being left off the RV trip from Atlanta to Springfield: "They wouldn't let me on the bus! They tried to stick me underneath. I wouldn't have it. So I said I'm flying to Springfield."

Gerald did get serious for a moment when talking about what his big brother meant for his game.

"We went at it from Day 1. I was the little brother and he made sure he was going to punish me every time on the basketball court and I had to always chase him. I was like when am I going to beat this guy, when I'm going to beat this guy. He was 6-8 and I was 6-2, 6-3 and didn't really grow that much until high school so it was always a challenge trying to beat him and keep up with him but I was destroying everybody I played against at my age and at my level because I was always playing against him. So I figured if he had a future, then I had a future and it turned out that way."

We can't forget about Damien, nephew of Dominique, and son of Gerald, who has found a home in Seattle ....

Looking Fit
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:52 p.m. ET

Looking at Nique on stage addressing the audience, kind of get the feeling he can still avg. 20 a game -- today .... guy is still in great shape ...

'Nique Rocking the Rim
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:50 p.m. ET

Crazy dunking footage as we wait for Nique to take the stage ..... in case u wondering, the reason Nique was born in Paris was because his father was stationed there as a member of the Air Force ....

Random 'Nique Facts
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:41 p.m. ET

Full name: Jacques Dominique Wilkins ... Birthplace: Paris, France ... Drafted: Utah Jazz, 1982 (third overall) .... Can u imagine him in a Jazz uniform? Didn't think so ...

More stats and facts …
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:37 p.m. ET

More stats and facts as we eagerly await the ceremony ... In 1959, George Mikan became the first NBA player enshrined in the Hall.

The New York Rens, an all African-American barnstorming team, were enshrined in 1963.

Bob Douglas, the owner and coach of the Rens from 1922 to 1945, became the first African-American individual enshrined. He was inducted in 1972.

Bill Russell, inducted in 1975, was the first African-American player inducted into the Hall.

Senda Berenson Abbott and L. Margaret Wade, inducted in 1985, were the first women included in the Hall of Fame.

We are minutes away from commencement …
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 7:33 p.m. ET

Perhaps no one guarded more players than John Havlicek, who starred for the Celtics at both the guard and forward positions … We asked the Celtics all-time leading scorer (26,395 points), who his toughest cover was at the guard position and Hondo didn't hesitate …"Oscar Robertson was the best player I ever played against because he had no weakness. He was a great defender, a great ballhandler, a great shooter, he averaged a triple double before the term came about."

And the forward postion?

"I can't name one because there were so many. I guarded Elgin Baylor, Billy Cunningham, Connie Hawkins, for me to single out one individual from that standpoint, I can't do that. I even guarded Bob Pettit at times and that was a mismatch believe me but I was a mismatch at the other end, too, so it probably worked out."

What About Next Year?
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 5:24 p.m. ET

We haven't dived into tonight's ceremonies yet but the early buzz floating around here has Chris Mullin and Dick Vitale as strong candidates for enshrinement next year .... What we're wondering: what about the man who posted back-to-back 50-point outings against the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks and notched more than 19,000 points in his career ....BK .. Bernard King??!!! ...

Some Facts and Stats
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 5:03 p.m. ET

Some random HOF facts to chew on as we count down to NBA TV's HOF Red Carpet show on at 6:30 EST ....immediately followed by the enshrinement ceremony ...on NBA TV

Without a physical structure to house its members, the Hall of Fame started honoring the early legends of basketball in 1959.

Members of the first class included the following:
The First Team (Naismith’s team)
The Original Celtics
Forrest Clare Allen, Coach
Henry Clifford Carlson, Coach
Dr. Luther Gulick, Contributor
Edward J. Hickox, Contributor
Charles D. Hyatt, Player
Matthew P. Kennedy, Referee
Angelo Luisetti, Player
Walter E. Meanwell, M.D., Coach
George L. Mikan, Player
Ralph Morgan, Contributor
Dr. James Naismith, Contributor
Harold G. Olsen, Contributor
John J. Schommer, Player
Amos Alonzo Stagg, Contributor
Oswald Tower, Contributer

Including the class of 2006, there are 269 individuals and 5 teams in the Hall of Fame

Three individuals have been inducted twice, John Wooden (Coach and Player); Lenny Wilkens (Coach and Player); Bill Sharman (Coach and Player)

Not counting the 2006 class, there are 129 players, 70 coaches, 50 contributors, and 12 referees enshrined in the Hall, along with the 5 teams.

The 5 teams in the Hall are: The First Team; the Original Celtics; The New York Rens; the Harlem Globetrotters; and, the Buffalo Germans

True Hall of Famers
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 4:57 p.m. ET

Not only is it great to see the living legends here at the Hall every year but also the special men and women who make this weekend a truly magical experience. Thanks to John Doleva, President and CEO, as well as the men behind the scenes -- Paul Lambert and Kip Fonsh and my man, chief historian Matt Zeysing, a true go-to guy, especially when the shot clock is winding down. So proud of his Kansas Jayhawks, Wilt's alma mater, and led by former Illini head coach Bill Self.... Matt is counting down the days to their first practice at Allen Fieldhouse on October 15th ....We can't wait ....

Kudos to Heisler, Raftery and Jaynes
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 4:34 p.m. ET

Before we dive headfirst into tonight's coverage, let's pay tribute to last night's recipients as the Hall honored writer extraordinaire Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times and NBA TV's own Bill Raftery with the coveted Curt Gowdy Awards (print and eletronic respectively) while Betty Jaynes, former Director and CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, received the 2006 Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Still beaming from last night's honor, Mark (who has covered the NBA for 23 years) and I walked over from the Sheraton to the Hall for this morning's press conference and he didn't sound too optimistic about the Lakers' chances of making the playoffs, giving them a 50-50 shot, citing an even more competitive Western Conference (see Hornets Kings, Utah, Sonics) not to mention the presence of the elite teams -- Mavs, Suns and Spurs in addition to the Clippers, Nuggets, etc. Hard to argue after remembering that the Lakers added just two players this offseason ... Vladimir Radmanovic and Maurice Evans. By the way, the pride and joy of the University of Illinois, Mark's NBA Notes column, a MUST read every Sunday in the Times in addition to his regular full-throttle coverage, tips off of at the start of the season. Only 51 more days to go for the notes and 53 for the start of the season......

Rumblings .....
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 3:47 p.m. ET

Hearing that MJ and Tiger are planning on honoring their friend Charles tonight by attending the enshrinement .....stay tuned ....

Geno Speechless?
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 3:40 p.m. ET

Don't expect any long winded speeches from the five-time NCAA Champion coach when he takes the podium tonight: "There’s not going to be any speech. There’s about four or five people I need to thank. Forty of my players are going to be there and if you start to get into names .... Charles and I are negotiating our minutes. He wants a couple of mine. I’m holding them ransom. There aren’t going to be any long speeches tonight by me. I’m usually not shy with a lot of words but tonight is going to be hard for me to use up a lot of words."

Sir Charles' Social Commentary
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 3:37 p.m. ET

Nearly 24,000 points, 12,456 rebounds, an NBA MVP Award, two Olympic gold medals, 11 All-Star appearances and what is Sir Charles most proud of in his Hall of Fame career? The fact that he was ahead of the curve with his revolutionary Nike "I am Not a Role Model" commercial. A message that resonates more so today than when it originally aired in the early '90s according to Barkley.

“That commercial is the thing I’m most proud of. We have got to do something with the black kids in this country. They all think they are going to grow up and play pro basketball, and they’re not going to.”

Monarchs-Shock: Geno’s Game 5 Prediction
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 3:35 p.m. ET

With the big night only hours away, we asked Coach Auriemma who he liked in tomorrow’s Game 5 winner take all showdown between Sacramento and Detroit and it’s no Shock who he’s leaning toward: “I have to go with Detroit despite the coaching they’re going to get. I have Swin [Cash] up there and I’m pulling for her. I would like to see them win. It will be a shame that she’s not going to be able to come to the Hall of Fame event but it will be worth it if she gets another WNBA championship.”

Earl Lloyd on Shaq and the Answer
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 1:40 p.m. ET

He made NBA history on October 31, 1950 as the first African-American to step onto an NBA court for the Washington Capitols. We ran into HOF-er Earl Lloyd who is very much of a fan of the game today sharing with us who his two favorite players are.

"I like a lot of today's players but my two guys are Shaq and Allen Iverson. Shaq is a throwback. He’s very unselfish and a tough competitor and from my not so lofty perch appears to be an unselfish human being. Allen Iverson might weigh 160 pounds – soaking wet. He takes such a pounding every night and keeps coming back at you. You have to admire the way he plays."

P.S. By the way, when Lloyd made his debut on Halloween, he led all rebounders when he grabbed 10 boards vs. the Rochester Royals.

Lloyd was the first African-American player to step onto the court but who was the first to sign a contract and get drafted? And to coach? See below:

Answer: Chuck Cooper (drafted by the Celtics in the 2nd round of the 1950 draft out of Duquesne); Nat Sweetwater Clifton was the first to sign with an NBA team (New York Knickerbockers) while Bill Russell became the first African-American coach in a major professional sports league when he served as a player-coach with the Celtics in 1966 (following Red).

Less Than Two Months
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 1:32 p.m. ET

Only 52 days til the start of the season … Oct. 31 -- Bulls @ Heat, Suns@ Lakers, both on TNT ...

Q&A
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 1:25 p.m. ET

Answer to Barkley 1984 Draft Order Question: Sam Perkins ...

1. Akeem Olajuwon (Rockets) 2. Sam Bowie (Blazers). 3. MJ (Bulls) 4. Sam Perkins (Mavs) 5. Charles Barkley (76ers)

Big Games, Big Hearts
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 1:20 p.m. ET

We're rolling with Sir Charles and Dominique (these guys are NOT taking their HOF blazers off) after media availabilty as they visit Baystate Children's Hospital in Springfield.

"What's up, Kristin, how ya feeling? asks Sir Charles. "Look at all of these cameraman taking a million pictures a second and they only end up using one. They think they get paid by the picture but you know what, they're all perfect cause I'm in them. I'm even making this hideous jacket look good."

As they both made the rounds, room to room, Charles turned to me and said, "This is the best thing about being Charles Barkley. You get a chance to see so many people, brighten their day, especially when they are in the hospital because it sucks being in a hospital. It flat out sucks. So if you can make them smile for just a couple of minutes, that's the best thing about being me is."

More Human, Fewer Highlights
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:40 a.m. ET

Joe, Charles and 'Nique told Dave Gavitt that he is the most likely to cry tonight and it sounds like he doesn't doubt it, by the way Dave Gavitt was a huge contributor to the game on all levels, including playing a key role in ushering the Hall's beautiful new home in his role of Chairman ... 'Nique delivering a nice one liner, "I'm no longer the Human Highlight Film, I'm just human. I'm out of highlights."

The press conference just ended. We'll check in again in a little bit.

Understated Joe D
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:30 a.m. ET

While Charles electried the packed media room here on the second floor at the Hall, not surprisingly, Joe D. delivered an elegant yet understated address extolling the virtues of other inductees yet stating how perfectly content he is toiling in the shadows of this celebrated class.

Sir Charles in Midseason Form
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:30 a.m. ET

Sir Charles doesn't disappoint: Barkley already cracking on inductees, calling it presumptious that Geno will get 600 wins this year, saying UConn could have sorry team ... Called Joe Dumars best player on Pistons team, called Isiah Thomas a great player and Bill Laimbeer an SOB to out loud laughter...

Sir Charles pleaded for people not to steal the family stuff at his mom's house in Leeds, Alabama since she and his entire family is here in Springfield. It's the biggest house there and there's more people here from Leeds than are in Leeds said Charles.

Class Clothing
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:20 a.m. ET

Geno being fiited with Hall jacket ... Perfect fit .... Sir Charles had to drop at least 30 pounds and he is being fitted with jacket, beaming all the way.

Any one take a real close look at Geno Auriemma's résumé……SICK ...eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances … 11 30-plus win seasons, eight trips to the Final Four, five national championships … an undefeated season in 1995??!!! …..

The Class of 2006 Is In Session
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 10:15 a.m. ET

Moments away from new class arrival ... Outspoken? Charles being Charles … Running for Governor … Stick to the man on the court for a second. If there ever was a basketball anomaly in the history of the game, it was Sir Charles. Listed at 6-6 but more like 6-4, Barkley dominated his much taller frontline peers and is only one of four players in NBA history to accumulate 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. The others: Wilt, Kareem and the Mailman …

Everyone knows who Portland selected ahead of MJ in the 1984 NBA Draft but do you remember who was selected in the fourth spot ahead of Sir Charles? It’s pretty easy. See below.

Caught up with 12-time All-Star Dolph Schayes, leader of the 1955 Syracuse Nationals championship team and member of the 1973 HOF Class. Schayes had high praise for a player who also played with his son Danny in Phoenix.

“I enjoyed watching Charles, especially early in his career with the Sixers. At 6-4, he just dominated. I never saw anything like him. My son Danny played with him in Phoenix. It was a tandem of two centers there, Danny Schayes and Joe Kleine. When someone asked Charles who the Suns starting center was, Barkley being Barkley, replied, “Schleine.”

By the way, ONLY 24 days til the start of training camp (Oct. 3) ...

Hall of a First Blog Entry
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Sept. 8 -- posted by John Hareas (NBA.com) on September 8, 2006, 9:55 a.m. ET

Greetings from the hallowed grounds of Springfield, Massachusetts and the ultimate basketball MECCA, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where just a bounce pass away (actually 2.7 miles), a visionary by the name of Dr. James Naismith invented a game (Basket Ball) that is now played by more people than any game in the WORLD.

"See, Geno, there was this Angolan..."
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
This shrine is an absolute MUST visit if you call yourself a basketball fan. And you do, don’t YOU?! And if haven’t made the trek, be embarrassed, SERIOUSLY embarrassed. When you FINALLY make that commitment, be sure to pay your RESPECTS and say THANK YOU to EVERY single ENSHRINEE (Men AND Women) that shine ever so brightly inside the beautifully illuminated Honors Ring dome.

In the meantime, allow us to be your personal guide through this basketball sanctuary as it officially welcomes the Class of 2006 ---- SIX distinguished individuals – Dominique Wilkins, Sandro Gamba, Joe Dumars, Geno Auriemma, Dave Gavitt and Charles Barkley – to its exclusive membership of 258.

That’s right, we’re BLOGGIN’ LIVE from the 21st Century home of Auerbach, Biasone, Chamberlain, Holzman, Mikan, Skywalker and Wooden. Like Bob Dylan’s latest and greatest CD, it’s Modern Times here in this 80,000 square-foot interactive state-of-the art museum.

Relive old footage and calls (Here Comes Willis! Havlicek Stole the Ball! OHHHHH!! A SPECTACTULAR MOVE by Michael Jordan!), test your skills on a variety of backboards and gawk at the priceless exhibits (see Mikan’s specs). We’ll also be speaking to the many alumni who have gathered from all over the world to celebrate this year’s stellar class. My neck is already hurting from the who’s who of basketball greatness walking the streets of this fine city and I haven’t even been here 12 hours.

And by the way, congrats to our friend Bob on his first No. 1 album in 30 years, dating back to 1976 (Desire), coinciding perfectly with the four ABA teams –Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs – who joined the NBA and provided the league with REVOLUTIONARY talent highlighted by Julius Erving, George Gervin, and David Thompson just to name a few …

While Bob is looking for Alicia Keys on Thunder on the Mountain, we’re looking for an unforgettable day and night, filled with heartfelt testimonials, old friends gathering and good times had by ALL, which we will undoubtedly find 24/7 …

We are minutes away from the ceremonious START– the press conference …

While we’re waiting, did you know that this, the eighth wonder of the world, which opened in 2002, is actually the Hall’s third home? The first one opened on the Springfield College campus – the site where Naismith invented the game although it was then called the International YMCA Training School, which opened on February 17, 1968. When the exhibits outgrew its space there, a new Hall opened in Springfield’s business district on June 30, 1985.