The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recently announced that Bullets great Gus Johnson will join the Class of 2010 that will be enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 2010.
Johnson was a five-time NBA All-Star (1965, ‘68-71) and a two-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive team (1970 and ’71) who helped lead the Baltimore Bullets to five playoff appearances in nine seasons, including the 1971 NBA Finals. He played 10 years in the NBA and finished with totals of 9,944 points (17.1 ppg) and 7,379 rebounds (12.7 rpg). Johnson also played for the Phoenix Suns (1972-73) and was a member of the 1973 ABA Champion Indiana Pacers.
“Gus Johnson was one of the greatest players I ever played with or against,” said Hall of Famer Wes Unseld. “He was a ferocious defender and rebounder, and as a young player, I was completely in awe of his ability. He was truly a star ahead of his time. His induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame is long overdue and very well deserved.”
Johnson’s #25 was retired by the franchise in 1986 and hangs in the Verizon Center rafters today alongside Unseld’s #41, Elvin Hayes’s #11 and Earl Monroe’s #10.
“This is a thrilling and totally deserved way to honor Gus’s memory,” said Wizards CEO Robert Pollin. “Gus was the original out-of-this-world leaper. Pre-Jordan and Dr. J., Gus could do a windmill dunk, taking off from the foul line. One of the first games after my father bought the Bullets in 1964, I saw Gus shatter a backboard in St. Louis with one of his jams. Gus was also a wonderfully warm person in addition to being an amazing athlete—even though my father could beat him in ping pong.”
Joining Johnson in the Class of 2010 are fellow inductees Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen, along with two celebrated teams: the 1960 USA Men’s Olympic team and the 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team,” and two other legendary players that, like Johnson, will be honored posthumously, Dennis Johnson and international star Maciel “Ubiratan” Pereira. Born on December 13, 1938, Johnson passed away on April 29,1987, of an inoperable brain tumor.
"Gus was ahead of his time, flying through the air for slam dunks, breaking backboards and throwing full-court passes behind his back,” said Hall of Famer Earl Monroe. “He was spectacular, but he also did the nitty gritty jobs, defense and rebounding. With all the guys in the Hall of Game, Gus deserves to be there already."
To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.