A little over two months ago, David Stern walked away from his job as NBA commissioner that made him famous for 30 years.
Now, he’s in the Hall of Fame.
In a ceremony Monday in a crowded ballroom at the Omni Dallas Hotel, Stern joined Alonzo Mourning, Mitch Richmond, Sarunas Marciulionis, Nolan Richardson, Gary Williams, Bob “Slick’ Leonard, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Guy Rodgers and the Immaculata University women’s team of the early 1970s as Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductees from the Class of 2014.
Clifton died in 1990 and Rodgers died in 2001. Both will be inducted posthumously. The ceremony takes place Aug. 7-9 in Springfield, Mass.
Stern became commissioner in 1984 and used his business savvy to transform the NBA into a multi-billion dollar empire and one of the most popular sports leagues in America.
“I’m most proud of the fact that when we began this journey with players as family, everyone said the NBA couldn’t possibly make it because it had too many black players,” Stern said. “And those very same players, they brought home the [Olympic] gold in Barcelona [in 1992].”
Mourning, who helped the Miami Heat rally from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the 2006 NBA Finals, was humbled by his induction.
“When you think about it, it’s the pinnacle of what we do as athletes,” said Mourning, who played in the NBA from 1992-2008. “After winning a championship, OK, what is there left?
“After you’ve made money, after winning a championship, what is there left? The one thing that’s left is being enshrined in your sport’s Hall of Fame. That’s forever. Nobody can ever take that away from you.”
That’s the same feeling Richardson had as he recalled coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks to an upset victory over the powerful Duke Blue Devils in the 1994 NCAA national championship game. Richardson also coached Western Texas College to the National Junior College championship in 1980, and Tulsa to the National Invitation Tournament title in 1981, and is the only man to coach teams to those three prestigious championships.
“You’re blessed when you think in terms that I’ve had the opportunity to be inducted into nine Hall of Fames,” said Richardson, who is from El Paso. “So therefore, this is the big one.
“I was told the other day that there’s nothing left but heaven. But this is close. Very close.”